In Good Taste: Homemade Caramel Corn

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While growing up my little sister and I weren’t allowed to consume any sugar. Because of this, I have a lot of strong food related memories. One in particular, is a brilliantly clear memory of a sleepover at a friend’s house where her dad cooked up a batch of peanut butter popcorn. I think that their family was a reduced-sugar clan too…but they used “real” peanut butter (read: the kind with sugar in it) vs. the dry ground paste that we had at home. Thinking back on it, I’m doubtful that this popcorn was really all that amazing, but at that time, to my sweets-deprived taste buds it was pure nirvana. I might have licked the bowl, and I’m pretty sure that I ate more than my fair share (I was greedy like that). Afterward, I revered her father like some sort of god…and you can guarantee that I was keen to sleep over at that friend’s house as often as possible from that point on.

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This in part, is why I determined that when I became a parent one day, that I would be one of those moms who would wow their kids’ friends by busting out delicious snacks…such as an epic rendition of caramel corn. And this lovelies, now brings to me the sweet, salty, crunchy goodness that is attainable through the Homemade Cracker Jack Recipe by Brown Eyed Baker. OMG!

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I’ve made this caramel corn more times than I can count and it’s a winner every-single-time (minus the first time when I burnt it—a note on that below). It’s the perfect recipe to add to your kid/friend-wowing recipe arsenal. Head over to Brown Eyed Girl for the Caramel Corn Recipe.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned during all my popcorn making:

  • Making caramel with a candy thermometer can be intimidating, but you can’t really mess up this recipe as long as you watch the temperature closely. You’ve got this!
  • I found that the oven cooking time needs to be drastically shortened. I only bake mine for 25-35 minutes (vs. the hour noted on the original recipe).
  • You cannot stir the baking popcorn too much. I recommend carefully doing so every 5-10 minutes. This will ensure a nicely distributed caramel coating on your corn.
  • The caramel coating on the popcorn will fully crisp up once it has cooled. Don’t worry if it’s a little bit sticky at the end of the baking time. If you feel that it needs more baking time you can always pop it back in the oven for a few more minutes…but once it’s burnt there is no going back. Don’t make that sad mistake.
  • If you can use Fleur de Sel in place of the sea salt in the recipe your caramel corn will taste even more mind-blowing.
  • Store the leftovers (Ha! As if there will be any!) in an airtight glass or plastic container. I found that using a plastic storage bag doesn’t work as well and gives the popcorn a yucky plastic-like taste.

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Photo props: Stamps from Besotted Brand | Wooden baskets from Michael’s Craft Store

Chocolate-Orange Macadamia Nut Cookies (gluten-free)

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Hello sweets! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! We’ve been battling a nasty long-lasting bug over here, but I’m finally feeling well enough to reenter the land of the living (thank goodness). So I thought I’d start a new year of blogging off right by sharing a favorite recipe with you, that I can’t seem to stop making (all 5 batches I’ve made in the past month have been in the name of “quality control” for this post…so I have an excuse, right).

I first stumbled across this tantalizing recipe over on Pinterest, and after my first initial adapted batch (I replaced the white chocolate with milk chocolate), I decided to try to further enhance the recipe by adding a note of citrus. That little bit of zest truly takes these cookies to a whole new level of yumminess. Rich gooey milk chocolate, crunchy macadamia nuts, and a zing of citrus packed inside a chewy cookie with crisp buttery edges…you’ve just got to try them!

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I think my adaptation is pretty stellar, but if you’re interested in the original recipe (with gluten), you can find it over on Kitchen Treaty. Her recipe makes double what my adaptation does, contains white chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate, and does not contain orange zest…so just keep that in mind for any adaptations you might want to make. Karen also shares a really nifty cookie shaping trick that I had never seen before, but that makes all the difference in the baking of a chewy cookie. Don’t miss that!

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Get baking and enjoy! xo Ez

Psst…you can find my favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour mix here.

Recipe Chocolate-Orange Macadamia Nut Cookies (gluten-free)

Recipe adapted from Kitchen Treaty
Yield: 14 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (gluten-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups Carol’s Amazing All-purpose Gluten-Free Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips)
  • 3/4 cup roasted salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh orange zest, plus more for garnish

Prep:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside
  • Coarsely chop macadamia nuts
  • Grate fresh nutmeg using a Microplane grater
  • Zest orange peel using a Microplane grater

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with a hand-held electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and continue beating on medium speed for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well-incorporated.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the gluten-free flour, baking soda, salt, and freshly ground nutmeg.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed, just until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not over-mix.
  6. Stir in the milk chocolate chips, chopped macadamia nuts, and orange zest with a spatula until combined.
  7. Scoop a generous tablespoonful of the dough (or use a cookie scoop like I did) and roll into a ball. With the tips of your fingers, grab the ball on either side and pull it into halves. Turn both sides so that the rough torn portions are both facing up and press the smooth edge of dough back together. Place on cookie sheet with the rough side facing up, about three inches apart. See this process illustrated on Brown Eyed Baker.
  8. Top each cookie with a scattered pinch of orange zest (optional).
  9. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until edges of cookies begin to turn golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and allow cookies to set for 5 – 10 minutes before carefully transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Cookies can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for 3 – 4 days.

Three Things I’m Loving Right Now

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With Thanksgiving only one week a way I find that I am splitting half of my thinking time between the upcoming feast day, and the other half dreaming of winter holiday decor and festive DIY projects. What a lovely spot to be in! So with the holidays in mine, here are Three Things I’m Loving Right Now:

1. I want to make this sumptuous looking Apple Cranberry Snacking Cake to share with family this Thanksgiving…but in the name of “research” I think I just might have to pick up the ingredients to make a gluten-free adaptation to taste-test later today. That’s not a bad thing, right?!

2. This gorgeous Gold Leaf Garland is the perfect decor accent to bridge between both Thanksgiving and Christmas (heck, you could leave it out all year if you wanted to)! Multi-purpose gilded decor…yes please! Oh, and it’s also a reasonable $35!

3. I’ve been wanting to make some DIY Beeswax Candles for ages now. Luckily for me, this year my sister just happened to ask Santa for some for Christmas. I just bought the supplies and am ready to get my “wax on” (a little Karate Kid pun in there just to keep you on your toes). Ho…ho…ho.

Apple Crisp with Pecan + Oat Topping (gluten-free)

apple-crisp-with-pecan-oat-topping1 While the Apple Ring Fritters that I mentioned yesterday were tempting, I decided to go for something quick and easy when choosing to use our recently harvested apples to bake up a tasty apple crisp last night. I found this recipe and decided to adapt it to be gluten-free (trust me…it lacks nothing in the flavor department), and I’m quite thrilled with the results. It was so good that it had my dessert-picky teen scraping out her dish! Success!

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Possibly the best thing about these crisps was the delicious caramelized apple mixture that dribbled down the sides of each dish. It was all I could do to keep myself from licking it off (I might have resorted to scraping it off with my finger instead).

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A close second was the rich toasty flavor of the pecans bathed in their cinnamon brown sugar crust. Are you taking stock of your pantry’s contents and adding ingredients to your must buy shopping list yet?!

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As far as desserts go, this one scores big on so many levels. Flavor? Check! Speed? Check! I’ll certainly be making it again and again…probably all Autumn long!

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Find more tasty recipes in the Creature Comforts’ DIY Gallery.

Recipe Apple Crisp with Pecan & Oat Topping (gluten-free)

Apple Crisp recipe adapted from FoodNetwork.com

Ingredients (filling):

  • 4-5 apples (such as young Fuji, Gala or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (unsalted)
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (we use Carol’s Brand)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Ingredients (topping):

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (we use Carol’s Brand)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (we use Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free variety)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (or more / less to taste)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Place 7-8 small ramekins onto a baking sheet and set aside.

For Filling:

  1. Prepare all filling ingredients and mix together until fully incorporated.
  2. Scoop mixture into ramekins, filling with the same amount in each. Be sure to leave a small amount of room at the top of each ramekin for the topping. Set aside.

For Topping:

  1. Mix the gluten-free flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, cinnamon and salt in large bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter or two butter knives until it forms pea size lumps.
  3. Stir in pecans and granulated sugar (if desired) until fully incorporated.
  4. Sprinkle a generous scoop of topping onto the apple filling in each ramekin. Use the palm of your hand to press and pack topping down.

Bake crisps for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a truly decadent treat!

Site for Sore Eyes: Erika Rax Blog

Erika Rax Blog I stumbled across Erika Rax over on instagram (or was it Pinterest) and then after liking about 50 of her grams/pins, made my way over to her blog. Within a minute or two of landing on her site I had no less than 5 of her recipes bookmarked to try. I mean Salted Caramel Swirl Marshmallows…come on! Of course any good recipe post is accompanied by images that make you salivate, and Erika’s blog has those in spades too. You’re gonna want to skip on over and see for yourself! | ERIKA RAX BLOG