Allow me to be the very last person to wish you and yours a very happy Halloween, Thanksgiving and holiday season. It’s a Hallogivingmas miracle! All hope is not lost, however, because I’m dropping in here at the end of the year with one last munchie for you to add your New Year’s Eve spread. More on that in a sec.
So let’s see. Where did we leave off. Oh! That whole growing a human thing. Well, I’m in my 38th week and this baby girl is still tucked in tight. We celebrated our first Christmas together this past week. This little pumpkin is spoiled already! And her daddy looks awful proud!
Mama is doing as good as can be expected. A little uncomfortable, a lot anxious. Things that used to be easy have become quite difficult. Putting on socks, for example. There’s something you take for granted. I need to set aside a least a full two minutes to get my socks on. Yesterday I went to the grocery store and got winded bending over to get the stuff out of the cart and on to the checkout. The teenager behind the register had himself a little chuckle over the whole thing. Heh. But, despite all that (and all the other minor pregnancy annoyances) I am over the moon excited and Baby Girl is doing well. She should make her grand entrance any day now. I’ve never been so ready for anything in my entire life. Labor? Bring it! Let’s do this!
So I guess tomorrow is New Year’s Eve although I must admit I’m not paying much attention. There will be no parties. We have no plans. I’ll probably ring in the new year fast asleep on the mound of pillows I use to keep the heartburn at bay. But you! You probably have all kinds of big plans. There will probably be sparkly spiked drinks and mounds of finger foods made with all things perfect like goat cheese and puff pastry. Maybe you’re even getting all dolled up. Put on some glittery nail polish and have a drink or two for me. I’ll live vicariously through you.
Now, if your New Year’s Eve get together involves more Bud Light and bean dip than Champagne and caviar, allow me to tempt you with one more easy and irresistible treat. Make a big batch of this stuff, put it in bowls on every coffee table, end table and TV tray in your party space and marvel at the way your guests find themselves powerless to keep their mitts off it. It’s pure, crunchy, buttery, sweet evil. I’m talking about…homemade caramel corn!
Caramel corn is my ultimate snack food weakness. Once I get started, I cannot. stop. eating it. I actually made this batch a few weeks ago to give away as part of a “My favorite things” gift exchange with the girls at work. Is caramel corn seriously one of my favorite things? Why, yes. Yes it is. In fact, let’s just go ahead and remove “whiskers on kittens” from that song and put insert caramel corn there instead. Much better.
I’ve tried several caramel corn recipes over the last few years but I keep coming back to this one. I like it because it doesn’t involve a candy thermometer and it’s low and slow bake in the oven allows the caramel to melt evenly over the popcorn. The end result is a light and crisp sweet snack and not a gooey, stick-to-your-teeth clump. It also keeps insanely well in an airtight container. Not that it’ll hang around that long. Try this stuff. Fall in love. Addictive. You’ve been warned.
- 1 cup popcorn kernels, unpopped*
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (try a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste for an extra flavor boost!)
- Pop the popcorn using your preferred method. (Do you have a Whirley Pop yet? We LOVE ours and haven’t bought microwave popcorn in almost two years. Recommended!)
- Place the popcorn in a very large bowl. You may need two very large bowls. You know what? Just use two bowls. You’ll need a lot of room to stir the caramel into the popcorn.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- To make the caramel, melt the butter in a two-quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once the mixture is boiling, let the mixture continue to cook for 5 minutes without stirring.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will bubble and get frothy. Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn in the bowls and stir or toss to coat. (This takes a little patience, just keep after it!)
- Spread the popcorn evenly on the prepared baking sheets. It will be clumpy, but will spread out as it bakes. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, tossing/stirring every ten minutes and rotating the baking sheets if needed. After 40 minutes, test a piece of cooled popcorn. It should be light and crispy when you bite it. If it’s still chewy/gooey feeling bake for another 10 minutes.
- Allow the popcorn to cool completely on the baking sheet before storing in an airtight container.
*If you prefer to use microwave or already popped popcorn, I would estimate you’ll need somewhere between 30 and 32 cups of popped popcorn for this full recipe.