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)
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
This week I’m focusing on recipes you can give as gifts (and you thought I was just going to annoy you with Christmas Carols). This week is about sweet and salty. A change from the traditional sweet treats. Here are two spicy nut recipes that are sure to be welcome gifts:
Cajun Spiced Nuts
- 1 tsp teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tsp teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 6 cups unsalted deluxe mixed nuts
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 brown sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
Mix spices together and set aside. Heat the nuts in a dry skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, about 4 minutes. Add the butter, stirring, until the nuts begin to darken, about 1 minute. Add the spices, the sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and the salt, stirring until the sauce thickens and the nuts are glazed, about 5 minutes.
Remove the nuts from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure they are all separated. Let the nuts stand until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container. Makes 6 cups
Indian Spiced Nuts
- 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts (or cashews)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 4 tablespoons shredded coconut (either fresh or unsweetened)
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix the nuts coconut, butter, sugar, coriander cumin, garam masala and salt together and pour onto the baking sheet. Toast for 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through for even baking. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes 2 cups
Now once you have these recipes completed, how about some creative ways to wrap them? Colored plastic wrap and ribbons, holiday Chinese take out containers are always fun, glass canning cars with fabric inserts between the rim and the seal, or even more fun, wrap the nuts in decorative paper cones, tied with ribbon. These are all creative ways to present your gifts and you make personalized labels to enhance the presentation.
Originally Posted December 2011
A crazy schedule is going to keep me from blogging too much the rest of the month. Actually what it is really going to do is leave me little time for cooking. No cooking, not much to blog about. But I won’t leave you hanging. I think to start things off I’m going to post of few links to some great recipes from other blogs I hang out at.
To start things off, let’s go with Tes’ AWARD WINNING Strawberry Chicken recipe. And if you aren’t reading Tes’ blog, you’re missing out. She’s always got something interesting cooking and the trips she and her family frequently take and she documents will take you on an exotic adventure.
It’s the first time I cooked savory strawberry sauce, it was challenging and exciting. The sauce turned out to be so amazing. It was flavorful and fresh. The sauce reduced to a thick and creamy liquid perfectly coated our simple pan grilled chicken.
Chicken with Strawberry and Black Pepper sauce
Ingredients: (2 servings)
- 2 chicken fillets
- 1 tbsp oil
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 cup fresh strawberry
- 3 cloves garlic- finely minced
- 2 tsp black pepper powder
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- Chopped parsley for garnishing
I’ll post a few more of Tes’ recipes over the month. Until then, check her out.
Had these late last night, Mrs J had made a meal of some meatloaf but I passed on that and satisfied my craving for spicy ramen and shrimp. She is not a fan of spicy food, and I am. I seized this opportunity to do it my way. Contains ground szechuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and a generous scoop or two of chili/garlic paste. Not to mention the hot chili oil I cooked everything in.
The packets of ramen that claim to be spicy usually include a small foil packet of seasoning powder, I made sure to add that to the mix. Also in the dish were chopped ribs of bok choi and some julienned carrots, a few onions rounded it out. I tossed in a few packets of the dried soup seasonings while I had some out, there were a few discs of dried carrot and some dried greens of some sort. Can’t hurt to toss that stuff in.
Yup, it’s plenty hot outside, reached 100 yesterday, humidities off the charts. Today promises much the same despite a series of thunderstorms that moved through last night. Jack woke me when he jumped into bed looking for some comfort. His shivers finally eased and we got some sleep.
We are going to spend the day making more fruit preserves, Mrs J has gone to town after some more apples. We want to make more apple butter since the last batch was so good. And Amazon delivered the Oxo cherry pitting tool we ordered after the last cherry go around so she will keep her eyes peeled for more cherries.
Bought some Korean ramen noodles at Amazon while I was there shopping for the cherry pitter, and they came yesterday. Decided to give them a try.
The ramen package came with a packet of dried veggies but they seemed rather a puny addition. I decided to try some of my pickled veggies with the noodles. These came about as a direct result of the carrot/daikon pickle I did a while back. It was such an easy recipe that I soon extended the pickling to some garden produce, along with more carrots and onions and other stuff I am forgetting.
I set the water to boiling and added in the noodles and the seasoning packets. The “hot” seasonings weren’t all that hot for me but I betcha Mrs J would think they were. At the last minute I tossed in some frozen shrimp. I put the pickled veggies in after I poured the soup out into the bowl. All they needed was a warm up. They did add an interesting flavor accent to the soup, spicy with just a tang of sour from the vinegar in the pickles, offset a bit by the sugar in the pickle recipe. Well, a couple billion folks can’t be wrong-noodles make an awesome soup.