Healthy Caramel Corn Clusters
National Popcorn Day is January 19. It’s true. It seems that just about every food has its own holiday these days–and although I am pretty sure this is more about marketing than good old fashioned food-love, I’m going to take this one for what it’s worth, because who doesn’t love popcorn?
I love it prepared simply–cooked in olive oil on the stove followed by a little shower of sea salt. But I have to say that slathered in caramel and spiked with nuts is a pretty nice way to go as well. Have you had some of those gourmet popcorn ensembles that are drenched in chocolate and any other number of embellishments? They are out of control, both in terms of pleasure-production as well as calorie-constraint, and lord knows what’s in those mixes. I thought it would be nice to come up with a recipe for a delicious sticky sweet caramel corn that didn’t rely on unhealthy ingredients. I started with a recipe from The Popcorn Board and swapped in my favorite wholesome components for some of the ones I don’t usually use. Here it is:
10 cups freshly popped popcorn
2 cups whole almonds
1 cup Sucanat (or firmly packed brown sugar)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat oven to 225F. Lightly coat a 15 x 10 baking sheet with oil. Mix popcorn and almonds in large bowl.
2. Combine Sucanat, coconut oil and maple syrup in medium saucepan. Over low heat, stir mixture until Sucanat dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, almond extract and baking soda.
3. Pour over popcorn and almonds, immediately stirring gently to coat. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet, spreading evenly.
4. Bake for 1 hour in preheated oven. Cool completely. Break into pieces and store in airtight container.
Yield: 20 servings.
Nutritional information per serving
Calories: 210 / Fat: 14 g / Carbohydrate: 19 g / Sugar: 14 g / Fiber: 1 g / Protein: 3 g / Sodium: 120 mg / Cholesterol: 10 mg.
Range-Top Popping from The Popcorn Board
To pop popcorn on a range-top, assemble the following:
• A 3- to 4-quart pan with a loose lid that allows steam to escape.
• At least enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan, one kernel deep.
• 1/3 cup of oil for every cup of kernels. (Don’t use butter!)
Heat the oil to 400-460 degrees Fahrenheit (if the oil smokes, it is too hot). Test the oil on a couple of kernels. When they pop, add the rest of the popcorn, cover the pan and shake to evenly spread the oil. When the popping begins to slow, remove the pan from the stove-top. The heated oil will still pop the remaining kernels.
Pre-salting kernels toughens popcorn. So, salt the popcorn after it has been popped–or skip salt altogether and add salt-free spices.