Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celebrating National Popcorn Day...With Cranberry-Nut Caramel Popcorn

Did you know that January 19th is National Popcorn Day?!?!? Like many of you, I love popcorn! I always have some on hand in my kitchen for a quick high-fiber snack. To celebrate America's love of popcorn on this special day, Kernel Seasons is sponsoring the World's Largest Virtual Popcorn Party on Facebook. Go sign up to party with me and lots of other popcorn lovers. Kernel Seasons is going to be holding giveaways for fun prizes AND offering some great popcorn recipes and tips for throwing a popcorn party on their Facebook page, so don't miss out!!

Kernel Seasons recently sent me a four pack of their popcorn seasonings to create a special popcorn recipe to celebrate National Popcorn Day. I thought about creating a fun new popcorn snack mix to go with the Pumpkin Pie Popcorn Snack Mix and S'mores Popcorn Snack Mix recipes that I created last year. But then? I decided to do something a bit different: try my hand at homemade caramel popcorn. I had no desire to get complicated and pull out my candy thermometer on a work night, so I found a super-simple recipe on Food Network's website.

I made a few changes to the original recipe...I added cinnamon, dried cranberries, cashews, and pecans to give the caramel corn a bit of extra flavor. This makes a lot of popcorn, and it comes together in no time flat! From the time I put the popcorn in the microwave to the time this popcorn went into the oven was about 20 minutes. We munched on it while watching TV last night and both gave it a big thumbs up. It's pretty sweet...but isn't that what caramel popcorn is all about?

Cranberry-Nut Caramel Popcorn
adapted from Food Network's Website

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 200. Pop 2 bags of microwave popcorn and pour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle generously with Kernel Seasons Milk Chocolate Caramel popcorn seasoning. Add the following ingredients to the bowl: 1 tbs. cinnamon, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/3 cup chopped cashews, and 1/3 cup chopped pecans.

Step 2:  Add 1 stick butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 1/3 cup corn syrup to a small non-stick pan. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then cook on medium heat until the mixture boils. Carefully monitor the pan to make sure the mixture doesn't bubble over, and boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp. baking soda. Stir continuously...the soda will cause the caramel to foam up and turn pale. This is normal, so don't panic!

Step 3:  Pour the caramel over the popcorn mixture and stir until everything is combined and evenly coated. Spread the caramel corn on a silpat-lined large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes. The caramel will dry during this time so it's not sticky to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Store the popcorn in an air-tight container to keep it fresh.

This popcorn is very sweet...but very good! It's not sticky at all thanks to its time in the oven on low heat. The tangy flavor of the dried cranberries is a really nice counterbalance to the sweet caramel coating, and the nuts give it a nice texture as well. This popcorn mix would be great to take to an office potluck...or your upcoming Super Bowl party. But it's also fun eaten by the handful while watching TV on a lazy evening at home on the couch...I speak from experience!!

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