Tag-Archive for ◊ crisp ◊

03 Feb 2011 Caramel Corn

Ooooh, Caramel Corn!   Isn’t it lovely?  You know I am not talking about that stale, pale, powdery stuff out of a bright and cheerful tin.  No, no, no, no, no!  I am talking about real Caramel Corn, the homemade variety.  Caramel Corn made with love.  Lots of love.  Lots and lots of love.  Truthfully, Caramel Corn is a bit of a  bother to make.  It’s going to take a commitment.  It’s going to take some time.  And it is going to make a mess in your kitchen.  It’s kinda sorta along the same lines as giving birth  (Forgive me for this analogy). At first bite – that first crisp, sweet crunch – the pain of bringing it forth will be forgotten.

Here’s my recipe.  I think I first got it from Taste of Home about, oh, maybe, five years ago.  Over the years, after reading every other Caramel Corn recipe, and testing out and then incorporating the best tips, I have improved upon their recipe.  It’s still a mess to make, but, using this recipe has a guaranteed outcome.  I know this recipe works.

There are a lot of occasions coming up where Caramel Corn would be very welcome.  What’s happening back East right now?  Snow Days!  How about a Movie Night?  I just had friends over to watch a few of this years “Best Picture” Academy Awards nominees.  Then, in a few weeks it will be the Academy Awards themselves.  Let’s not forget abut Super Bowl Sunday: the best reason on the planet for the best snack layout of the year!  Touchdown! And, Valentine’s Day. Just pop Caramel Corn in those heart motif bags and you’re all set. Your Valentine will melt in your arms…

Need some more reasons to make Caramel Corn?  (Tough crowd today…) Caramel Corn can be made ahead, way ahead, like a week or more.  Once made, Caramel Corn is no more bother.  Just pour it in a bowl on put it on the table.  No refrigeration.  No reheating.  No slicing. No spreading.  No dip.  No utensils. Leftovers, highly unlikely, but if there are any, will keep for up to two weeks. The real reason to make Caramel Corn though?  The taste.  That sweet, crisp crunch.

Caramel Corn

  • 1 cup unpopped popping corn (divided use)
  • ¼ cup vegetable, canola, or corn oil (divided use)
  • 1 cup butter (no substitutions, no margarine)
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Set out two large, rimmed baking sheets and one clean, large brown grocery bag.
  2. First, make the popcorn.  You’ll have to do this in two batches.  Get out your biggest pan (I use my stock pot) with the tightest fitting lid (if the lid is glass, you’ll have it made in the shade).
  3. Note:  I make my popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stove, in some hot oil, as the directions below reflect.  I am guessing you could also make the popcorn in an air popper or in the microwave.  If you choose to go down that path, skip the popping directions below, use your own method, and have about 16 cups of popped popcorn warming in the oven when you start on the caramel part of this recipe.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the pan.  When oil is hot, stir in ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels.  Put the lid on and SHAKE the pan like crazy. After 2-3 minutes, the popcorn will begin to pop.  Keep shaking the pan!  When you can see (if you have a glass lid) or hear the corn has stopped popping for 2 seconds or more, remove pan from heat.
  5. Pour the popcorn onto a baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  6. Make the second batch of popcorn.  Wipe out the hot pan and repeat the steps above with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels. The popcorn will cook faster this time around because your stock pot should already be hot.
  7. Put the second batch of popcorn onto the second baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  8. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  9. Stir brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt into the melted butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Now, STOP STIRRING.  Let mixture boil, undisturbed, for four minutes.
  10. Remove warm popcorn from oven.
  11. Pour ½ of hot syrup over each tray of popcorn.  Stir to combine.
  12. You can skip this step if you want, but I find it helpful.  Pour the partially coated popcorn into a clean brown paper grocery bag.  Fold over the top to seal, then vigorously shake the bag to evenly coat with the caramel syrup.
  13. Pour the popcorn back onto two baking sheets.
  14. Place popcorn in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir to evenly coat caramel over all kernels.  Return pans to oven, switching pan locations.  Repeat three more times, so the popcorn bakes for 45 minutes total.
  15. Remove pans from oven and let cool.
  16. Serve, or store in air tight container until ready to serve.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope you like the Caramel Corn. Want to serve it with Maple Bacon popcorn?  Stop by again, I have that recipe in my line up. Enjoy!

18 Oct 2010 Pear Crisp

Ahhh, fall comfort food!  I love baked pears and I love an oatmeal rich crisp topping.  This is a basic Pear Crisp recipe, if you want something fancier, check out my Drunken Pear Crisp with Cherries recipe.  I cut this recipe from a Cooking Light magazine years ago.  I’ve fooled with it quite a bit, more spices, more oatmeal, more pears… LOL!  The quantities here fit nicely into a 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.  If you have a lot more pears, just up the quantities by by 50% and bake in a 9 inch by 13 inch pan.

Ummm, true confession time.  We like this best at room temperature, for breakfast.  Hey! It’s oatmeal! It’s fruit!

A few years ago I asked my son to type the recipe out for me, with my changes. He did, but he embellished it a bit. I have retyped his version here, edited just a bit for clarity.  He was young at the time, not the big hunk of 19 year old masculinity he is now… Nevertheless, he’s going to crawl into a cave and hibernate when he finds out his mom published this on her blog. Oohhhhhhh, the embarrassment of it all! Don’t anyone tell him about this, puleeeeeese!

My Lovely Mom’s Pear Crisp

6 cups sliced ripe pears (5 or 6 lbs)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A tiny bit of hard work
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
A whole bunch of JOY
1/3 cup flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons chilled butter
2/3 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup chopped walnuts (if you must)
A pinch of happiness

Directions

Look around you.  Take in your surroundings.  Be thankful. Feel wonderful about yourself and those around you. {Laugh at your son. He’s so FUNNY!} Read the recipe and do what it says.

Preheat oven to 375º.

Combine peeled and sliced pears with the lemon juice, toss gently to coat and then place in baking dish.

In another bowl combine sugar, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg. Stir to combine.  Pour mixture over over pears and mix lightly.

Do one thing, every day, that you have never done before.

In the same bowl (because it’s empty now and who wants to wash another dish?) combine flour, brown sugar, another ½ teaspoon cinnamon and another ¼ teaspoon nutmeg.  Cut in 3 tablespoon cold butter or grate the butter into the flour mixture with a grater (that’s what my mom does) and combine until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.  Stir in oats and optional nuts.  Sprinkle mixture evenly over pear mixture in the baking pan.

Bake at 375º for 30-40 minutes or until pears are tender and topping is golden brown.  Cool at least 20 minutes before eating (hot pears in melted sugar burn).

Smile. You’re all done.

My son is home from college today.  I made this for our breakfast tomorrow.  He and I will enjoy some Pear Crisp and some lattes.  I’ll read the newspaper.  He’ll read something about American history…and then we will probably argue about something stupid.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, hope you enjoyed the Pear Crisp!

20 Sep 2010 Hoisin Chicken in Lettuce Cups

Mmmmm… Hoisin chicken, wrapped in a crispy, iceberg lettuce leaf.  I don’t remember where I found the original recipe, it was a few years ago.  My daughter and I have tinkered with it a bit over the years and now we think it’s pretty darn incredible! And it’s so fun to eat, too! I love the crunch of the lettuce and the water chestnuts and I love the Asian flavor. This is one of my favorite dishes to serve on a buffet or take to a pot luck.  I’ve served this as an appetizer, a salad, and a main dish!  How’s that for versatility?  To serve, I put out a big bowl of the warm hoisin chicken, add a slotted serving spoon (because the sauce is a bit juicy) then surround the whole thing with “cups” of iceberg lettuce.  Guests assemble their own lettuce cups (and then eat them like a taco!)

This recipe serves a crowd. You’ll have about 8 cups of filing, which will easily fill 16-20 lettuce cups.  There should be no problem halving this recipe if  you want to make a smaller number of servings.

Hoisin Chicken in Lettuce Cups

8 boneless chicken breasts
4-6 Tablespoons oil (2-3 for cooking chicken, and 2-3 for cooking vegetables)
4 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger (or finely chopped fresh ginger, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped celery
½ cup green onion
3 cups diced mushroom
16 oz. diced water chestnuts (2 cans), drained and chopped
1 cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons plain/natural rice vinegar (don’t use the seasoned rice vinegar)
1 cup minced cilantro
2 or 3 heads of iceberg lettuce (note that not all heads are created equal, some have better leaf “cups” than others)

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat, add chicken breasts and cook thoroughly (approximately 5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the chicken).  Remove from heat and let cool.  Meanwhile, chop celery, green onions, mushrooms and water chestnuts.  When chicken is cool, dice into ½ inch pieces .

In the same pan, heat remaining oil and ginger and sauté until fragrant.  Add celery, onion, and mushrooms, sauté until soft, about three minutes.  Add diced chicken, stir until chicken and vegetables are incorporated together.  Add drained and chopped water chestnuts, hoisin, Worcestershire and rice vinegar to chicken and vegetables, sauté for an additional minute or so.  When the all the liquid has been distributed and all the flavors have blended remove from heat and stir in cilantro.  Remove chicken mixture to a large serving bowl.

Make lettuce cups by carefully pulling off individual leaves of lettuce.  They don’t all have to be perfect, or the same size. Place lettuce cups around the bowl of the chicken.

To serve: With a slotted spoon, scoop ¼-½ cup of chicken mixture into lettuce cup, eat and enjoy!

NOTE:  the chicken/vegetable mixture can be made ahead of time, stored in refrigerator, and then reheated before serving.  (I actually think the flavor improves after sitting 24 hours). If you are going to make the lettuce cups ahead of time, store in sealed plastic  bags  in the refrigerator–but don’t make the lettuce cups too far ahead, the edges of the lettuce will turn brown-when they turn brown depends on how fresh your lettuce is.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today…, and thanks, Hannah (my older daughter), for being here and tweaking this recipe so that’s it’s pretty much perfect!

13 Sep 2010 Drunken Pear Crisp with Cherries

Everyone who tried this last night (last night refers to one night in the fall of 2009) loved it…, except for me.  I didn’t fall in love with it until about an hour ago, when I had a bite of the leftovers.  Soooo GOOD!  What was I thinking earlier?  I had to scrape the bottom of the serving dish to get a leftover helping for myself.

This crisp is made with almost a full bottle of Zinfandel. I’ve served the crisp  with small scoops of homemade vanilla ice-cream, and with whipped cream.  I am going to have to make another batch to figure out which option I like better! Besides that, the picture above is horrible and I definitely need a new picture… (if you make this, can you send me a picture to use in place of this one?)

I made one change to the “Pear Crisp with Dried Sour Cherries”  recipe from “The Top 150 American Recipes” cookbook (aside from renaming the recipe), I thought the filling needed a thickening agent, it did.  I’ve added it into the recipe below.

Start this one day before you plan to serve it—the cherries need time to get drunk.  Kids probably won’t like this…. Let them eat the ice-cream!

Drunken Pear Crisp with Cherries

1 cup dried SOUR cherries (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)
Approx ¾ bottle of Zinfandel
5 cups thickly sliced pears (about 2 ½ lbs, 8 medium)
1 T. tapioca or cornstarch
½ cup sugar (divided use)
1 ¼ c. flour
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
1 T. finely chopped toasted sliced almonds
¼ c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/8  t. ground nutmeg
¼ t. cinnamon
8 T. (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine cherries with enough Zinfandel to cover by 2 inches.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool.  Place cherries in the refrigerator and let soak overnight (or, at least 8 hours).  Drain the cherries, but reserve the wine.  In a large bowl combine the sliced pears, drained cherries,  ¼ cup white sugar, and cornstarch or tapioca.  Toss well.  Add ½ cup of the cherry-Zinfandel liquid and then let stand for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In another bowl combine flour, remaining ¼ c. sugar, 1/3 cup toasted almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Slowly drizzle in the melted butter.  Stir with a fork until mixture comes together in crumbles. (Do not over-mix and get a big ball of dough-break up any clumps bigger than one inch).  Spoon fruit mixture into a 2 qt. baking dish (8 x 8).  Evenly sprinkle crumbs on top of the fruit mixture. Sprinkle 1 T. finely chopped almonds over the crumbled topping. Bake until mixture is bubbling and topping is browned, about 50 minutes.  Serve hot or warm, with or without ice-cream or whipped cream. Guard the leftovers with your life!

Inviting friends over this fall?  Serve this for dessert.  Trust me.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!