Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

Despite the fact that I grew up in the 90’s, there are a number of things I didn’t really experience during that decade. I wasn’t a huge fan of Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I never owned a Walkman. And I was too busy devouring Anne of Green Gables to even consider cracking open one of the Baby-Sitters Club books. (Oh but Sweet Valley High? Now that’s a different story…)

I’m thinking about all this since a huge wave of 90’s nostalgia seems to be crashing over America right now, especially when it comes to movies and TV shows. All the reruns, remakes, and reunions tend to evoke a whole lot of excitement– unless you’ve never seen the originals. It was with that in mind that Gabe and I sat down to watch Jurassic Park on Friday night. The first one.

Yeah, I’d never seen the original Jurassic Park movie. (Don’t look at me that way, friendly but bewildered cashier at Whole Foods.) In my defense, it would have scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid. But I’m slightly less jumpy nowadays, so I decided it was time. (The verdict? Pretty good movie, but even better music.)

So if you’re jumping on the 90’s nostalgia bandwagon and looking for a delightful snack to munch on while binge-watching Seinfeld or anticipating the Full House remake, I highly suggest this spicy honey caramel corn. It has all the sweetness of classic caramel corn, but the addition of cayenne pepper puts this treat firmly in the grownup camp. Even if your entertainment choices are bringing you right back to childhood.

Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

  • 1 cup unpopped popcorn
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250° F with two racks placed near the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Pop the popcorn on the stove or in a popcorn maker. (I love my air popper.) Set it aside in the largest bowl or container you have, keeping in mind that you’ll need room to toss the popcorn with the caramel mixture. I often use a big stockpot, but you can also use two bowls.

In a small bowl, whisk together cayenne and baking soda. Set aside.

Over medium heat, melt butter in a two-quart saucepan. Stir in honey, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture begins boiling, let it continue to boil for five minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and carefully add the baking soda mixture and vanilla extract. The caramel will bubble up violently and might splatter, so be sure to stand back! When it has stopped splattering, stir the caramel carefully to make sure the vanilla and baking soda mixture are evenly mixed in.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir until the popcorn is well coated. Be very careful not to touch the caramel– it’s hot! Evenly scoop the popcorn onto the two baking sheets. Bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes or so. Test the popcorn for doneness by cooling a small piece and tasting it. The popcorn is done when it’s perfectly crispy, not mushy at all. If it’s still soft, keep baking!

Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking sheets. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

* Use 1/4 tsp. cayenne for popcorn that has just a hint of spice. Use more if you like things hotter!

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats and also inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

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Patriotic Popsicles

Happy July, everyone! We’re getting ready to head up to Carmel Valley tomorrow for the wedding weekend extravaganza for some dear friends of ours. And since it’s the Fourth of July, we get to celebrate both wedded bliss and ‘Murica. Talk about fireworks.

If you’re feeling inspired to celebrate the good old USA by making frozen treats this weekend, here’s a fun and fairly simple project. I couldn’t resist. Because summer = popsicles, and the Fourth of July = red, white, and blue food.

This recipe is more of a technique than an actual recipe. Feel free to adjust it to fit your own taste preferences and the size of your popsicle molds. One thing I have to mention: for each pouring step, be very careful to fill the molds from the center so you don’t drip any puree on the insides– or you’ll get messy-looking popsicles. Of course, they’ll get messy when they melt (see exhibit A below), but hey, that’s part of the fun! Hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Patriotic popsicles

Side note: Those of you who know me well understand that two of my least favorite things are being cold and being sticky. Taking this photo was a true labor of love. ;)

Patriotic Popsicles

  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • milk
  • 12 oz. strawberries
  • honey, to taste

In a blender or food processor, puree blueberries until smooth. Taste and add honey if desired. (Remember, things taste more tart once they’re frozen!) Pour equal amounts of the blueberry puree into popsicle molds, filling the bottom third or so of the molds. Freeze until firm.

In a small bowl, stir together greek yogurt and a tablespoon or two of milk until it’s a good pouring consistency. Stir in honey to taste. When the blueberry layer of popsicles is frozen solid, cover it with a short layer of greek yogurt mixture, maybe half an inch or so depending on the size of your molds. Refrigerate remaining yogurt mixture and freeze popsicles until firm.

In a blender or food processor, puree strawberries until smooth. Stir in honey if desired. Pour a layer of strawberry puree into the popsicle molds over the frozen greek yogurt layer. (Keep them close to the same size to resemble the stripes on the flag.) Place tinfoil over the tops of the popsicle molds and insert popsicle sticks. (The foil helps them stay in place.) Freeze until firm.

Finish the popsicles by adding one more layer of greek yogurt and one final layer of strawberry puree, freezing between each step. Once the popsicles are frozen solid, they’re ready to serve. Release from popsicle molds by carefully running hot water over the molds until they loosen.

Makes six three-ounce popsicles.

Source: Oh the Things We’ll Make.

Chocolate Graham Crackers

The idea came to me while I was making ice cream.

A few days prior, I asked Gabe what kind of ice cream he had a hankering for, and he replied, “cookies ‘n’ cream!” So of course I made a whole bunch of chocolate wafer cookies using this recipe, instead of buying oreos to mix into the ice cream. As I was transferring the cookies from the baking sheet to the cooling rack– and a few just happened to make their way into my mouth for quality control– I had a memory, and then an epiphany.

The intensely rich, dark, chocolatey taste of those wafer cookies reminded me of eating chocolate teddy grahams as a little girl. I smiled. And then I thought, “I should make chocolate graham crackers!”

So I studied the tweaks I had made to previous graham cracker recipes, did a little research about cocoa powder, and developed a recipe that was dark and chocolatey but made with 100% whole wheat flour. Something that would taste fantastic on its own but sublime with a dollop of peanut butter. Something to please my taste buds and my conscience. And here it is.

Chocolate graham crackers

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Chocolate Graham Crackers

  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together pastry flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Roughly chop the butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and stir on low until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a large bowl and a pastry blender.)

In small bowl or glass measuring cup, stir together honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove dough from fridge and roll out half onto a lightly floured surface, about 1/8-inch thick. With a knife or pastry wheel, slice into 2-inch by 2-inch squares. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and lightly poke with a skewer or other kitchen tool to make a dotted pattern. (Believe it or not, I use the poky side of a meat tenderizer.) Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes, then let cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat with other half of dough.

Makes approximately 4 dozen crackers.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam original, inspired by these cookies and my previous adaptation of a Smitten Kitchen recipe.

Whole Wheat Almond Biscotti

‘Tis the season for a sugar high. My workplace has been inundated recently by boxes of chocolates and homemade cookies. And of course they’re spread across the table where I eat my lunch! Nothing looks more tempting than a Lindt truffle while eating roasted beet and arugula salad. (Which is delicious, by the way. But it’s not chocolate.)

In the midst of all these snickerdoodles and gingersnaps and See’s candies, I’ve been longing for a dessert that’s a little more virtuous. So when I saw a series of healthier biscotti recipes in the New York Times, I jumped on them. I know I should probably post a whole wheat recipe around, say, January 1st or so, but this blog operates in real-time. For the most part. Aaaaand I added a drizzle of super dark chocolate to this whole wheat treat. It’s still December, after all.

Whole wheat almond biscotti

Whole wheat almond biscotti

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Whole Wheat Almond Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 oz. dark chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Whisk in vanilla extract. Switch to the paddle attachment and stir in whole wheat flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Stir in almonds. Mixture will be sticky.

With moistened hands, place dough on parchment paper and form into a large log, about 2-3 inches thick and 1 to 1 1/2 inches tall. Bake for 50 minutes, or until lightly browned and the top starts to crack. Let cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut into slices 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Place back on parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the biscotti and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Optional: Melt dark chocolate in the microwave and drizzle over biscotti. Let cool. Biscotti will keep for several weeks in an airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen.

Source: Very slightly adapted from the New York Times.

Oven-Dried Grape Tomatoes

Alright, it’s time for another composite recipe challenge! As our temperatures suddenly plummeted from high-90s to low-60s this week, I was reminded of the fleeting nature of summer and its bountiful, sun-sweetened produce.

Oven-Dried Grape Tomatoes

While August may not last forever, there are ways to capture a bit of summer magic and keep it for a little while longer. Slow roasting is an easy way to concentrate the flavor of even mediocre winter tomatoes. And when you start with killer summer fruit? Oh baby, it’s a sweet flavor bomb. At least that’s what Gabe told me as he repeatedly snatched handfuls cooling on the jelly-roll pan.

So what did I do with these chewy, juicy tomatoes? Any guesses? Come back soon to find out!

Oven-Dried Grape Tomatoes

P.S. Here’s a bonus hint: another ingredient in the upcoming composite recipe is fresh basil pesto! Now what are you thinking?

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Oven-Dried Grape Tomatoes

  • 80-90 grape tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for the jars
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt

Preheat oven to its lowest temperature setting (usually 150-170° F). In a glass measuring cup, stir together olive oil, garlic, and oregano. Slice tomatoes lengthwise and place on a foil-lined jelly roll pan, cut side up. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil mixture and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake for 6-8 hours, or until tomatoes reach your desired level of dryness. Let cool completely, then place in glass jars. Cover with additional olive oil and screw on lids. The tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month.

Source: Very slightly adapted from Cook Your Dream

Spicy Refrigerator Pickles

Gabe and I had dinner at a Jewish deli in Minneapolis for the first time last week. We were frequent visitors at Zaftigs in Brookline, and I’m proud to say that I’ve eaten the as-tall-as-my-face pastrami sandwich at Brent’s Deli in Los Angeles. So it was borderline absurd that we’d made it eight months in Minnesota without a stop at Rye Deli.

Despite the fact that a crazy hailstorm rolled in and we had to grab our food and run– getting the car safely under covered parking just in the nick of time– it was a fantastic experience. And now I’m even more obsessed with trying Jewish recipes. Matzo ball soup? Check. Challah? Check. Next up? Pickles!

I was one of those kids who used to drink pickle juice for fun, so it was with glee and a slightly manic expression that I bounded through the grocery store carrying four ginormous cucumbers and declared for all to hear, “I’m going to make pickles!” Sometimes I can be embarrassing to shop with.

This recipe was super quick to whip up and easily multiplied. The hardest part was an agonizing two-day wait while the pickles cured. But then, bubbling with anticipation, I broke into a jar and Gabe and I tasted them for the first time. He looked at me with a sense of wonder breaking over his face and said simply, “You made pickles.”

Yes, yes I did.

Spicy refrigerator pickles

Spicy refrigerator pickles

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Spicy Refrigerator Pickles

This recipe is really easy to multiply! For each 16-oz. mason jar, you need the following:

  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced into spears
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbs. distilled vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt

Place garlic and red pepper flakes at the bottom of the jar. Add two sprigs of dill and the cucumber spears. Make the brine by stirring together water, vinegar, and salt until salt is dissolved. Pour brine over cucumbers in jar. Top with another sprig of dill and tighten lid on jar.

Place in refrigerator and wait two days before eating. Enjoy!

Source: Very slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats.

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Popcorn

I’m really not a fan of single-use kitchen items, but one appliance I adore is my air popper. I made popcorn on the stove for years, and despite gaining nicely toned arms (ha!), I hated the time and energy required to cook the popcorn and then clean up a greasy pot afterward.

Luckily my little sis rescued my aching arms by getting me an air popper for Christmas, along with adorable popcorn boxes. That’s the way we roll.

Besides the ease with which this baby pumps out popcorn (scaring the cat in the process), my favorite thing about owning a popcorn maker is that I can use the time previously spent slaving over the stove dreaming up popcorn toppings instead. (Poppings, if you will.)

And then within minutes I have a bowl full of sweet ‘n’ spicy popcorn, a perfect way to kick back after a hard day of work.

Sweet 'n' spicy popcorn

Sweet 'n' spicy popcorn

Sweet 'n' spicy popcorn

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Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Popcorn

  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne (or just a pinch, if you like things with less of a kick)
  • 8-10 cups popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 200° F. In a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, melt butter. Stir in sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne until well-combined. Pour butter mixture over popcorn in a large bowl, and toss to combine. Spread onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.

Source: Adapted from Flo Burtnett at allrecipes.com.