It's going to be a busy week ahead! I hope I'll have the time to do a few postings,but I'll apologize in advance if I miss a day or two. In addition to being busy preparing for company, it's mostly a week of eating repeats, and not very exciting ones at that. And I figure that most people already have their Thanksgiving menus set, so suggesting this side or that side may seem a little redundant, given that's what a lot of websites and magazines are suggesting this time of year.
What I did want to mention today is a simple snack that you may want to consider including in the busy week ahead. And that would be homemade Caramel Popcorn. Do you know that it is much easier to make than you would think? A few weeks ago I was looking for something special to make for a munchie on a Saturday afternoon. My eyes fell upon my hot air popcorn popper, and my initial thought had been simply popcorn. But I'd also made a batch of caramels lately, and that ran through my head, and before I knew it, I was getting out the ingredients to make some Caramel Corn. The popcorn popped up quickly, and the caramel syrup came together in less than 5 minutes. The only time this snack takes up is inactive cooking time, as it must bake up in the oven for a while. But since you are free to do other things during this time, it literally makes this treat a 5 minute snack.
Hard to beat, we all enjoyed munching away on the caramel flavored crunchy popcorn. For an added bonus, you could always include some nuts of your choice, or for extra star treatment, you could add a drizzle of chocolate. I did that one year for a few Christmas gifts, I added a dark chocolate drizzle and some festive colored non-pareils for a really delicious, really fun little gift in a tin. Homemade Caramel Popcorn is way better than store bought, really easy to make, and would also make a great hostess gift if invited to someone else's Thanksgiving dinner.
8 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup unpopped)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 300ºF. Sort through the popped corn to remove any unpopped kernels. Place the popcorn in a large roasting pan or other deep pan, place in the oven to keep warm while you make the caramel.
Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a heavy saucepot over medium-high heat. Cook and stir to boiling. Carefully clip on a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Continue to cook and stir to 255º, or hard-ball stage. This should take about 4 minutes.
Remove saucepot from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour caramel over the popcorn and stir gently to coat the kernels.
Bake in a 300ºF oven for 15 minutes. Stir gently, return to oven, and bake for 5 more minutes.
Transfer popcorn to a large piece of foil or sheet pans to cool completely. Break up into clusters. Store tightly covered.
For Nutty Caramel Corn prepare as above, except add 1 1/2 cups peanuts, walnut halves, cashews, or pecan halves to the caramel coated corn before baking. Toss gently.