Sweet Heat Popcorn For The Oscars

I’m going to an Oscar Party tonight, and my Sweet Heat Popcorn is coming with me. It’s a costume party, and there’s also a contest to guess which movies, actors, and directors will come out on top. It should be loads of fun even though I’ve only seen 1 of the 9 films nominated for best picture of 2014. (Note to self: go to the movies more often!)

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It’s just hours to go until the Academy Awards kick off, but there’s still time before the red carpet to knock out a batch of this  Sweet Heat Popcorn. You likely have all of the ingredients in the house, and it’s worth the few minutes of active cooking time for a treat this addictive. Plus, who watches movies, or awards shows for movies, without popcorn?

 A hefty dose of Sriracha sauce gets squeezed into a pan with brown sugar, a knob of butter, and a generous amount of salt. A little bit of vanilla extract rounds out the quick spicy caramel. The popcorn gets drizzled with the sauce, and what really ties it all together for me is that the kernels are no completely coated in caramel, like my Caramel Corn with Peanuts recipe.  There’s a little bit here, and a little bit there, giving a nice dose of spice without igniting your tongue on fire. It’s just the right amount. 

Sweet Heat Popcorn

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat your oven to 250°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large pot with a lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Drop one popcorn kernel into the oil. When the kernel pops, the oil is hot and ready. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and give it a gentle shake to coat the kernels in oil. You’ll hear kernels beginning to pop shortly. When the popping sounds slow down, remove the pot from the heat and transfer to the popcorn to a large bowl. Dump in the peanuts.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, Sriracha, and salt together, stirring occasionally until the sugars are dissolved and the mixture bubbles.  Off the heat, carefully add the vanilla extract and baking soda. The caramel will bubble up angrily when these ingredients hit. Let the mixture settle a few seconds, and stir to combine well.

Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn and toss it together to coat. Divide the popcorn evenly between the two baking sheets, and spread it into a single layer. Bake the popcorn to dry out the caramel for 20 minutes, stirring the popcorn to break up the pieces every 10 minutes.

Cool the popcorn completely before storing.

Makes about 8 quarts.

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Homemade Caramel Corn for Christmas

  I don't know what the deal is, but I am really, really, inexplicably into the holidays this year.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been working on holiday stuff at work for months.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in love.

Perhaps it’s because this is the first time in my life that I live in a place large enough to host my entire family for Christmas dinner, 17 large, including Grandma.

It’s probably a combination of all of these things, but at this point, I’m so damn Christmas-y that I’m beginning to annoy the people around me. I’m even annoying myself. Since when do I think it’s a good idea to listen to the Glee Holiday Station on Pandora, anyway? I’ve never even seen an episode of Glee! And I made a wreath for my front door out of twigs that I gathered from the park across the street, and then SPRAY PAINTED WHITE. I freaking crafted!?

Since this is my first time hosting Christmas for my family, I want to make it special. I’ve borrowed the appropriate amount of folding tables and chairs. I’ve purchased 21 pounds of short ribs and all of the trimmings for the big meal.  I’ve wrapped the gifts.  And this afternoon, I did what I can only hope will be my final cutesy activity of the season. I cooked up a delicious batch of homemade caramel corn with peanuts.

Homemade Caramel Corn with Peanuts

Nothing cutesy about that, right? Just delicious, buttery, sweet, crunchy goodness.

And then I maybe I blacked out, because somehow the caramel corn ended up packaged in theselittle bags that look like Santa’s fat stomach. 

What is happening to me???

Seriously, somebody take my temperature. Maybe I have a fever that’s making me hallucinate or something. I’ve been surrounded by this kind of thing for the past 4+ years at my job in the Wilton Test Kitchen, but somehow managed to remain uncrafty, until this holiday season. And now, I just can’t seem to help myself. I just want to make stuff!

So now, please excuse me. I have to go build some teeny-tiny gingerbread houses for my nieces. Probably gonna jam to the smooth vocal stylings of Michael Buble while I’m at it. Ugh.

Caramel Corn with Peanuts

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3/4 cup salted peanuts
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat your oven to 250°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large pot with a lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Drop one popcorn kernel into the oil. When the kernel pops, the oil is hot and ready. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and give it a gentle shake to coat the kernels in oil. You’ll hear kernels beginning to pop shortly. When the popping sounds slow down, remove the pot from the heat and transfer to the popcorn to a large bowl. Dump in the peanuts.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, sugars, honey, and salt together, stirring occassionally until the sugars are dissolved. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. The color will deepen slightly, and the mixture will bubble up. If you like your caramel flavor lighter, take the pan off of the heat at 3 minutes. If you prefer a stronger, more burnt flavor, continue cooking the caramel to a darker color, but removing it from the heat before it begins to smoke. Off the heat, carefully add the vanilla extract and baking soda. The caramel will bubble up angrily when these ingredients hit. Let the mixture settle a few seconds, and stir to combine well.

Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn and toss it together to coat. Divide the popcorn evenly between the two baking sheets, and spread it into a single layer. Bake the popcorn to dry out the caramel for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring the popcorn to break up the pieces every 5 to 6 minutes.

Cool the popcorn completely before storing.

Makes about 4 quarts.

Grocery Store Finds – Boomchicapop!

January 19 is National Popcorn Day, and I’m a serious fiend for some good popcorn.

Prepackaged popcorn is something that I would generally flee from for many reasons, but with a funny name and striking packaging like this, how can you not look twice?

Boomchicapop is hands down the best pre-popped, packaged popcorn I’ve ever tasted for the simple reason that it DOESN’T taste like was packaged at all. Somehow, the people at Angie’s, the company behind Boomchicapop, have figured out how to pop the kernels and keep them tasting super fresh inside those brightly colored bags. If you don’t have time or patience to pop your own corn, this is the next best thing.

With only 35 calories per cup and a short, easy-to-pronounce ingredients list, Boomchickapop fits in with my 2013 goals of eating more healthfully, and the bag is actually a pretty good read, on par with any cereal box I perused over breakfast as a kid.

Boomchicapop is also available lightly sweetened, and Angie’s sells a few other packaged flavors, too. Look for it in your local grocery store!

*I wasn’t paid for this post. I paid for the popcorn myself and told you about it because I really, really liked it. No hidden motives here!