Caramel Popcorn

You know those popcorn tins you get around the holidays? There’s that regular butter popcorn, that takes up the most room, then there’s cheddar popcorn, and finally everyone’s favorite, caramel covered popcorn.

This recipe for caramel popcorn is almost identical. And without the preservatives! I don’t know if that really makes it healthier… it is still full of sugar, butter, and more sugar.

Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • canola oil, enough to coat bottom of pot
  • 1/2 C popcorn kernels
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/8 C corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Steps:

  1. Put canola oil in pot along with 2-3 kernels of popcorn. Cover and stand by. Once you hear the kernels pop, add the 1/2 C of popcorn. Cover and cook over medium heat until popping slows. Gently shake the pop during the popping process so as not to burn the popcorn at the bottom. Remove from heat and remain covered until popping has ceased, unless you want to be pelted with popcorn. (If you have another method of popping popcorn, feel free to use it.)
  2. Melt together butter, sugar, syrup, salt, and vanilla. You can do this either over the stove top or in the microwave for 2 minutes. Whisk until combined and add in the baking soda.
  3. Pour caramel over cooked popcorn. Toss until popcorn is completely coated.
  4. Cover popcorn and microwave for 1:30 min. Toss and microwave for another 1:30. Spread popcorn out on a wax paper lined surface and allow to cool. Break apart clumps if desired.

*This recipe is modified from Brenda at http://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/2013/12/23/moms-microwave-caramel-popcorn-recipe/*

Caramel Popcorn 1 Caramel Popcorn 2 Caramel Popcorn 3 Caramel Popcorn 4

Mustard Pretzel Popcorn

When many people think football, they think pretzels! Pretzels with beer, pretzels wrapped around hotdogs, and pretzels with mustard.

This popcorn recipe also comes from Food Network Magazine’s January/February 2014 booklet of 50 Flavored Popcorns. The recipe I present to you is the one from Food Network. But I highly suggest reducing the amount of liquid, or maybe popping (see what I did there?) the mixture in the oven for a few minutes. I found that the final result was a bit soggy for my preference. I did break small pretzels sticks in half as that’s what I already had in my pantry, maybe actual small pretzels would have enough surface area to help absorb the butter-mustard mixture.

Mustard Pretzel Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • canola oil, enough to coat bottom of pot
  • 3/4 C popcorn kernels
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 C small pretzels

Steps:

  1. Put canola oil in pot along with 2-3 kernels of popcorn. Cover and stand by. Once you hear the kernels pop, add the 3/4 C of popcorn. Cover and cook over medium heat until popping slows. Gently shake the pop during the popping process so as not to burn the popcorn at the bottom. Remove from heat and remain covered until popping has ceased, unless you want to be pelted with popcorn. (If you have another method of popping popcorn, feel free to use it.)
  2. Whisk together melted butter, mustard, sugar, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl mix popcorn and pretzels. Toss with butter-mustard.

Mustard Pretzel 1 Mustard Pretzel 2 Mustard Pretzel 3 Mustard Pretzel 4

Taco Popcorn

This week I will be bringing you 4 different popcorn flavors. Perfect for your Super Bowl party!

I want to start with one that can kinda-sorta fall into my Mexican Monday theme.

This popcorn comes from Food Network Magazine’s January/February 2014 booklet of 50 Flavored Popcorns. Popcorn is tossed with corn chips, butter, and chili powder. Then quickly baked with cheese and scallions.

Taco Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • canola oil, enough to coat bottom of pot
  • 3/4 C popcorn kernels
  • 3 C corn chips
  • 6 tbsp salted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 C shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Steps:

  1. Put canola oil in pot along with 2-3 kernels of popcorn. Cover and stand by. Once you hear the kernels pop, add the 3/4 C of popcorn. Cover and cook over medium heat until popping slows. Gently shake the pop during the popping process so as not to burn the popcorn at the bottom. Remove from heat and remain covered until popping has ceased, unless you want to be pelted with popcorn. (If you have another method of popping popcorn, feel free to use it.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 deg.
  3. In an extra large bowl toss together popped popcorn and corn chips. Toss with chili powder. Toss with melted butter.
  4. Place popcorn mix on a baking sheet in an even layer. Top with shredded cheese and scallions. Bake for 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Season with salt to taste.

Taco Popcorn 1 Taco Popcorn 2 Taco Popcorn 3 Taco Popcorn 4

Game Night Cheese Die

Last night we were invited to a game night with friends. We were asked to bring an appetizer.

There are plenty of easy to eat appetizers to choose from, but I wanted to “go all out” and bring a themed dish. Unfortunately I’m not creative enough to come up with my own clever idea so I turned to the trusty internet. Most recipes I found were desert related – domino brownies, rice krispie treat billiards balls, etc. And then there was this die, made from cheese!

I’ve had cheese balls in the past and thought that this was a winner. The trick to making a cube instead of a ball is having enough time for the cheese to harden in a loaf pan. And to create the white exterior you “frost” the cube with more cream cheese. Stud it with black olives and you have yourself a die! (Mine wasn’t anatomically correct, but no one seemed to mind.)

Cheese Spread Cube

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz cream cheese, divided
  • 2 C shredded Italian blend cheese
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • sliced black olives for decorating

Steps:

  1. Mix together 16 oz cream cheese with shredded cheese and scallions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place cheese in a plastic wrap lined loaf pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours. You can do this the night before your party too.
  3. Remove cheese from the fridge and cut the loaf in half. Place one half on top of the other to create a cube. (Or make multiple smaller dice, whatever you decide.)
  4. Beat remaining 8 oz of cream cheese with the milk until smooth. (It’ll play a mind trick on you, thinking it’s marshmallow fluff or frosting!)
  5. As if you were frosting a cake, cover the die with the smooth cream cheese. Stud the 5 visible sides with olive slices.
  6. Serve with crackers or bread.

*This recipe was modified from http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cheese-spread-dice*

 Cheese Spread Die

Sausage Pinwheels

I want to provide you with another option for your New Year’s Eve party.

I know this doesn’t qualify as Mexican Monday – but it could if you decided to substitute Mexican chorizo in place of the breakfast sausage. In fact, that actually sounds delicious! My dad felt that the pinwheels were actually missing something, such as a dipping sauce. But we were all stumped as to what that could be. Red pepper jelly seemed to work, but still wasn’t just perfect. Using Mexican chorizo might give that needed something.

A friend of mine brought these sausage pinwheels to a party last year and they were gone in the blink of an eye. Even my cream-cheese-hating husband gobbled them up.

Sausage Pinwheels

Ingredients:

  • 1 roll breakfast sausage
  • 2 tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 2 pkgs cream cheese, softened

Steps:

  1. Brown the sausage and drain any fat.
  2. Mix cream cheese and sausage.
  3. Roll out crescent dough and press together seams. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture. Roll the crescents lengthwise. Repeat with 2nd tube of crescents.
  4. Place rolled up pinwheels in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  5. Slice pinwheels into 1/2″ rolls. Place pinwheels cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 13 minutes, or until crescents are cooked through.

*This recipe is adapted from Leah at http://abiteofmylife.blogspot.com/2009/02/cream-cheese-sausage-pinwheels.html*

Sausage Pinwheels

Bacon Wrapped Dates

It’s the time of year for cocktail parties. Saying goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014.

Bacon-wrapped anything is always a safe appetizer to take with you to your New Year’s parties. And bacon wrapped dates are your best bet. The dates caramelize in the oven and turn into candy. The bacon crisps up. What you are left with is essentially a chewy centered candy.

I have a big lesson learned to tag along with this recipe. Bake your bacon wrapped anything on a cookie sheet with a rim! Why? Bacon releases fat/grease. This grease is not solid. This grease will most likely drip off of a flat cookie sheet. In a 450 degree oven this grease will catch fire. Now what?! Turn off the oven. According to dummies.com keep the oven door closed and the lack of oxygen will cause the fire to die. But if want to save your bacon wrapped anything quickly and carefully remove them from the oven and throw either baking soda or salt on the flame. DO NOT USE FLOUR. Apparently, flour will cause an explosion!

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Ingredients:

  • dried dates
  • bacon

Steps:

  1. Soak toothpicks in water, to prevent them from catching fire. Preheat oven to 450 deg.
  2. Cut bacon in half. On a plate, microwave bacon for 2 minutes (covered with a paper towel).
  3. Wrap each date with bacon and skewer with a toothpick.
  4. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until bacon is cooked and crispy.

*This recipe is adapted from Beau at http://oursavorylife.com/a-delicious-paleo-snack-recipe-bacon-wrapped-dates/*

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Last week we were invited to a friend’s surprise birthday party. I knew I was going to bring something edible to the table, but had to decide on what that was going to be. I thought about doing my Corn and Black-Eyed Pea Dip but as it’s fall decided to go with something heartier.

I decided to do some recon on the birthday girl’s Pinterest boards and saw that she had posted a Buffalo Chicken Dip. I stopped searching there and decided on this recipe.

Every Christmas Eve my brother’s fiance’s family has a party. My future sister-in-law makes this dip every year and it’s a crowd favorite. Two years ago for Christmas she gave me a fantastic cooking gift basket filled with Giada DeLaurentiis products as well as a recipe box, including her Buffalo Chicken Dip.

Unfortunately this food post does not have a photograph to accompany it as I forgot to snap a picture before the party. We were running late and it completely slipped my mind. Next time I make it I’ll add it to this post.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:

  • Approx 3 lb chicken, cooked and shredded (Kelli boils hers, I baked mine)
  • 12 oz hot sauce (Kelli uses Crystal and so did I)
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 16 oz blue cheese dressing (I used Ranch)
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream cheese and dressing. Stir until the mixture is smooth and cream cheese is melted.
  3. In a large bowl combine cooked chicken, hot sauce, and the cream cheese mixture. Pour into a casserole dish.
  4. Cover the casserole with the shredded cheese.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes until the mixture is bubbly and cheese is golden.

Quita’s Shrimp

I have mentioned my mom’s mom, Busia, on my blog before and it is now time to “introduce” you to my dad’s mom, Quita.

You’re probably thinking I have very strange names for my grandparents. Busia (boo-sha) is the Americanized Polish for grandmother and Quita (pronounced kee-ta) is the Lauren-ized Dominican for Abuelita. When I was young, I couldn’t pronounce Abuelita and being the first grandchild on my dad’s side of the family, it stuck! Funnily enough though only my brother and I call her Quita. My cousins use the traditional Abuelita and Abuelito while my youngest cousin calls them Mami and Papi.

So what do I call my grandfather? Taita (tie-ta). This one is my grandfather’s creation and the origin is debatable.

This shrimp recipe is a party favorite. It is a room temperature salad of cocktail shrimp, onions, and peppers in a bright vinaigrette. The recipe I followed didn’t have the amounts of each ingredient, but I used my best judgment. When I pulled it out of the fridge it smelled perfect – just as I remember. Upon tasting it I was a little heavy handed with the olive oil, but with a little more salt and a dash more vinegar and I was back on track.

Quita’s Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb cocktail shrimp
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (Quita uses green but I had orange on hand)
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 heaping tbsp cocktail sauce
  • 2/3 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1 – 1 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Steps:

  1. Combine all ingredients. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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A Baby Shower

I don’t follow celebrity gossip or the royal wedding/birth but as it blows up my Facebook newsfeed I do know that a new prince was born Monday. I’m going to take advantage of the internet baby fever to share a quick little story about a Surprise Baby Shower I threw for a friend of mine. with the Mom-to-Be

I like surprises. I don’t particularly care for being surprised, I like providing the surprise. When my friend was pregnant with her first child, I just knew I wanted to do something for her. With a lot of help from her husband and dance teacher, I assembled a guest list and sent out formal invitations.

I had never thrown a baby shower and I don’t think I’d been to one yet, so I looked to the trusty internet for inspiration. Unfortunately every game had the caveat “ask the mom if she’d be okay with this”. But I couldn’t ask the mom! Luckily, my best friend’s sister was also pregnant and her mom threw a Onesie Decorating Party. Bingo. It really is a genius idea – it eliminates any embarrassment on both the mom and the mixed guest list.

Spinach Dip, Meatballs, Macaroni and Cheese Cupcakes, Roll-out Cookies
Spinach Dip, Meatballs, Macaroni and Cheese Cupcakes, Roll-out Cookies
Onesie Decorating
Onesie Decorating Table

Onesie Decorating 2Onesie Decorating 3

I’d say the party was a success and the mom-to-be was surprised!