Monday, April 20, 2009

Caramel Popcorn

This recipe comes to you courtesy of my sweet friend, Kandee. It's a variation on my mom's, which I fondly refer to in this post.First, pop your popcorn. I just cover the bottom of a heavy pan with oil (vegetable is fine) and add two kernels. Then, cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and listen for a pop.

[I'll interject here to say that I once forgot about the popcorn at this stage and nearly burned the house down. Did I tell you Mr.4444 does a lot of the cooking around here? There is a reason for that.]

(I'm also interjecting to say that I'm using Calphalon cookware here, folks. We had the same set for about 10 years before we read our guarantee and had it replaced for free. Looks like we're back where we started and need another replacement. Hopefully, someone at Calphalon will read this post and have mercy on us. We do love the cookware, if not the way it looks.)

Once you hear the pop, lift the lid carefully and pour in popcorn to generously cover the bottom. Then put the lid back on quickly and wait for it to start exploding. When it starts, reduce the heat to here, and keep the pan moving until you only hear occasional pops. Pour into a large bowl. (Note: Unless you like very expensive dental work, you might want to take this time to remove any unpopped kernels that you happen to find in your popcorn. You'll probably see them later, but it's easier to get rid of them now.)

Here are the ingredients for this recipe:
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (set this aside)

Melt the butter....
Add the brown sugar...the corn syrup...And the salt...Set the baking soda to the side for now.Okay, I can't lie. There were lumps in my brown sugar, so at this point, I whipped out the handy-dandy potato masher. Voila!Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring frequently.Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. You could use a candy thermometer to turn it off at the "firm ball" stage, but I do it the old fashioned way....

Fill a small cup with COLD water. Dribble about a teaspoon's worth of caramel into the bowl. With your finger, see if you can gather it up. If you can't, then keep cooking, and try again in a few minutes. If you can, see if you can pick up the little mass and tap it on the side of the bowl. If you cook it too long, it will crack too hard (and you can still make the caramel corn, but you will be seriously risking your tooth enamel.)

When it can be tapped against the cup/bowl, remove the caramel mixture from the heat and add that baking soda you set side earlier. Mix well. (It will foam up.)Pour about half of the mixture over your popped corn, and stir, adding more after it's mixed, until it's covered fairly well. Pour into a large pan. (I did not grease this non-stick pan, but you might need to, depending on what you use.)See this little bugger? That right there is a dentist's dream. Get rid of any kernels that failed to pop. You'll get one more chance to do so, but it's best to get them when you see them right away.

Place in an oven preheated to 250 and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir. Repeat. Stir. Repeat. (45 minutes total) Dump the popcorn out onto a large piece of foil. Break it up into little pieces. This is your last chance to save on dental bills...give it another once-over (I found five more kernels this time!)You will know you have done this well when children start running into the kitchen saying, "Are you making caramel corn?! I LOVE YOU!!!" (especially if you don't have any children!)

After it's cool, put it into baggies or other containers. We each packed some up to take to school tomorrow....

....Because my kids don't want me to hand-deliver it! I wonder why????? [Insert haunting cackle here.]

P.S. Confused? Read Another Sweet Memory at Half-Past Kissin' Time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Party Cheese Terrine"

Do you have any idea what a terrine is? Neither did I, and I'm still not sure what a terrine has to do with this recipe, from my co-worker, Laura. It's a dip that you layer in the container and then flip onto a plate to serve. It called for a special "cheese server" container that Tupperware no longer sells (apparently) so I had to be creative. When I Googled "terinne," I came up with some fancy ceramic containers and terms like "pate" and "duck foie gras." Don't let that scare you; I didn't think the dip would know the difference, so I decided to use two to-go containers that I happened to have, and my dip tasted every bit as good (and better) than some shee-shee-froo-froo fancy-schmancy restaurant fare. In fact, be careful, because this dip is so good, you will have a hard time pulling yourself away from it.


1/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups snipped parsley (get rid of the stems)
3 pkgs. cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 1/2 pkgs Buddig ham, chopped small
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 2-oz jar chopped pimiento, drained
Optional garnish: cucumber or water chestnut slices
Assorted crackers to serve with the dip

First, lube up the container you're going to layer the dip in with vegetable oil. Mix the pecans and 3 tablespoons of the parsley; sprinkle evenly into the bottom of the container.
Beat the softened cream cheese, butter, and milk until creamy.
Take 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture and spoon it onto the mixture in the pan. Carefully spread it around with a knife. (It will slide around a bit, but don't worry about it.) Next, chop the green onions. (For years now, I've been a big fan of Veggie Wash, so I always clean them first. In fact, I wouldn't think of eating a single veggie or fruit without having cleaned it with Veggie Wash first.)
This is my favorite pic of the bunch, so I'm making it bigger. Isn't it pretty?Mix the onions with the remaining parsley
and add 1/2 of the remaining cream cheese mixture to the bowl and mix it up.
Plop this over the first layer (and spread it.)
Next, prepare the ham. I suppose you could use Buddig beef, too, but this being Easter, I chose the ham (Just kidding, Silly! I was just following the recipe.) The package is a 2-oz size, so you'll need a total of 5 ounces.
Chop it up small...
Mix the ham, drained pimiento, and mustard.
Stir and spread this mixture over the 2nd layer.
Here's how much this recipe made (the smaller container is a Ziplock sandwich-sized container.) If you're the fancy type, feel free to put it into your terrine :)
Now, here's where I read the directions that read "Cover and chill overnight,"(about three hours before we had to leave for the party at my brother's house.) Guess what? I broke the rules; I chilled it in the freezer for about 30 minutes and then put it in the fridge for 2.5 more hours. (No one was the wiser!)

Shortly before you need to serve the dip, invert the container onto a plate and cover with a hot, damp cloth to help the dip slide out of the container. If you're in the mood to channel Martha, garnish the dip with a few slices of cucumber or water chestnuts. Isn't it pretty?! Serve with crackers (or eat it with a spoon--Just kidding!!)

*Note: This recipe is copyrighted by Meredith Corporation and Dart Industries.