Thursday, February 24, 2011

Vanilla Popcorn

There used to be this place called Orange Julius in our mall for the longest time. Ever since I can remember it was there. They sold all kinds of popcorns, ice cream treats, milkshakes, and of course Orange Julius. Which makes me think about this recipe that I wanna try. Everytime we went to the mall, which wasn't that often, I HAD to have their Vanilla Popcorn. It was always colored. Around Mardi Gras it would be purple, green, and yellow, around Halloween it would be orange; green and red for Christmas and so on. It was my favorite snack as a kid. 

Vanilla Popcorn
Picture from Google search.

Some while back, they closed it down, and replaced it with another store similar to it, but they didn't sell the popcorns. Just the popcorn in the bag like at a carnival. I was not a happy camper. So, for years and years, I have been wanting and craving this popcorn. 

About a year or so ago, my mom and I ran across a recipe for a similar popcorn. It was the kind of recipe where you need to boil the sugar and what not on the stove to a certain temperature, and I was kinda intimidated. So, I never made it. 

THEN, I came along Our Best Bites' recipe for Caramel Corn. It looked so easy, I thought, if I mess it up, oh well. It was worth a shot. So, I did. And it turned out so dang YUMMY! I made it a few more times before the light bulb went off in my head to make a vanilla version. I went for it! And it turned out equally yummy! I brought my first batch to our monthly girls game night. Verdict? They requested I bring it again. Score! 

So, here is my version of Vanilla Popcorn!!

12 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 C kernels) - I use Orville Redenbacher's Tender White. I'm not sure how the buttery popcorn would work here. 
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup white corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt (if you are using salted microwave popcorn then omit salt here)
 - The Tender White is lightly salted, so I don't use salt.
1 stick real butter
 - Don't skimp here! I use unsalted.
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
 - You could put an addt'l 1/2 tsp if you want to amplify the vanilla, but 1 tsp is plenty for me.

Pop popcorn and set aside. Place sugar, corn syrup, salt, and butter in a microwave safe dish.  Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir to combine. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir again. Microwave for 2 more minutes.

Meanwhile, put the popcorn in the biggest bowl you have. You will regret it if you don't. Remove any un-popped kernels. 

When the caramel is done, take out of microwave. Add baking soda and vanilla. Stir until it starts to foam a little bit, and gets thick. Pour over popcorn. Mix well with a big spoon. Try and get as much of the popcorn covered as you can. Work quickly, because it does start to harden quite fast. 

You could take it just like this, spread it out on some foil, let it harden a little bit, and eat it just like that. It will be gooey and firm, but it won't be crunchy.

To make it crunchy, like I like it, you need to bake it. Spread the popcorn out on a cookie sheet or two. Bake either at 200 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, or at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  If you choose the latter, keep an eye on it towards the end of cooking time to avoid over cooking. (This is what I do: I bake at 300 for 10 minutes, then stir, and for about 6 more minutes. Sometimes I do just the 10 minutes. Either way, it will be crunchy.) It is VERY easy to burn the sugar. Believe me...been there. 

And there you have yummy vanilla popcorn! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roasted Asparagus

So...I totally forgot 'What I'm Lovin Wednesday.' So sorry! It totally slipped my mind. My lil man and hubby had a day out together, so I caught up on some stuff I have been wanting to do, and time got away from me, and before I realized it, it was too! So, we'll just go to a recipe. 

Growing up, I always chose my veggies before the meat or bread on my plate. Everytime. Even today, I could eat a whole plate of veggies for dinner, and be satisfied. Now, don't get me wrong, I am totally a meat and potatoes kinda girl. I will never turn down a big juicy steak. NEVER. But, sometimes, I just like a big plate of steamed, buttery veggies. 

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I have always loved. I've always eaten it out of a can at home, only fresh in a restaurant or some place like that. I don't know why. Just never thought to make fresh at home. 

When I was looking through my mass of recipes to make for Valentine's day dinner, I came across this one that I have been wanting to try, and I knew it was gonna have to be tried. I LOVED it. I will make it again, but with a few changes. My son ate them like they were candy. Didn't touch his pasta until after he had 3rds of asparagus. {Proud Mommy} The hubby doesn't eat vegetables, maybe, so, I halved this recipe which ended up being perfect with a little leftover. 

I'm not much of a garlic fan. Too much of it, in my opinion, can ruin a meal for me. And it doesn't take a lot of it to get to "too much." That it what I would change in this recipe. I would half the garlic, at least. But, if you like garlic, don't change it. I would also cut the oil down. It was a little too much for me. 

2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds total
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice
lemon wedges, for serving

1. Heat oven to 450°. Coat two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Trim and discard tough ends of asparagus. Place spears in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
2. Place half of the asparagus on each baking sheet. Roast at 450° for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
3. To serve, place on a platter and sprinkle with lemon juice and lemon wedges.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas

Most of the time when you think of chickpeas you think of hummus, right? Well, I did until I saw this recipe. I was a little skeptical, but I have decided to keep my resolution that I made last year. That is to try new and different things whenever given the opportunity. How could I not on this one? I had everything on hand except the chickpeas, which are like 62 cents a can. Totally affordable. I figured, if I didn't like em, I was out, what, a buck fifty? I can chance that. 

I was pleasantly surprised. If you like heat, or spice, I would definitely add some chili powder or cayenne. I didn't, and there just wasn't enough spice. Tasted like it was missing something. Anyways, definitely make sure you get as much of the moisture off of the chickpeas as you can for maximum crunch. I roasted mine for 45 minutes, but not all of them were crunchy all the way through, some had a little softness to them. So, I would go a few more minutes longer next time. I was telling my mom that they tasted kind of like spiced roasted peanuts. If you like hummus, or chickpeas for that matter, I say give this one a shot!

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp allspice*
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 (15½ oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained, throughly patted dry

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper. Add chickpeas and toss to coat thoroughly. Turn chickpeas out onto baking sheet and roast, stirring or shaking baking sheet often, until chickpeas are browned and crunchy, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before serving, stirring occasionally. 

Yield: 2 cups 
PER SERVING (¼ cup): 120 cal, 5g fat (0g sat), 0mg chol, 4g fiber, 4g pro, 15g carb, 536mg sod

Source: All You Magazine

*Sometimes we don't always have everything that the recipe calls for, but we don't want to go buy something for it, like allspice. So, you can always substitute. This is a great website for substitutions.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chicken & Corn Chili

Chili is one of those comfort foods that we look forward to in this house when it starts to get cold, rainy, and gloomy outside. It's also a great food to sit down and enjoy while watching football....Super Bowl 45 to be exact. Oh, and cornbread is a must, sweet cornbread if you live here. I have made this chili too many times to count. It was requested for yesterday's festivities by my father. This picture is of the leftovers because we ate after the sun went down yesterday. So, I just saved some for the picture. It is a little more brothy than this picture shows, but it does thicken up after the first day. It is wonderful as a leftover, but if you don't like it so thick, I would just add a little bit of chicken broth. I bet this would be good on top of a baked potato, too. Chili baked potato? Yum. It doesn't say in the recipe, but I like a little sour cream on top of mine. This recipe is definitely one to try! 

Just a couple things...
- I always use fresh chicken in this chili. I have never tried it with frozen chicken.
- I suggest using low-sodium chicken broth. I think adding regular broth might make it too salty.
- With the beans, my grocery store doesn't carry canned cannellini beans, only navy or northern. So, I use the smaller navy.
- I don't amp up the heat too much in this because of my lil one, although I do like spicy stuff. If you wanted it spicier, I would suggest leaving some of the jalapeño seeds in or adding a touch more cayenne.

1 large onion, chopped - I use a yellow onion.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts - I used about 1½ lbs.
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¾ tsp salt
1 can (14½ oz) diced tomatoes with jalapenos, drained - I used tomatoes with green chilies.
1½ cups frozen corn, thawed - I use drained, canned corn.
2 cans (15 oz each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed - I use navy beans.
2 Tbsp stone-ground cornmeal
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream, optional

1. In a 5 to 6-quart slow cooker, combine onion, chicken, low-sodium broth, green bell pepper, jalapeño, 1½ teaspoons of the cumin, ¼ teaspoon of the cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. 
2. Remove the chicken to a cutting board, and allow to cool slightly. Shred the chicken and return it to the slow cooker with remaining ¼ teaspoon each 0f the cumin and cayenne, and then tomatoes, corn, and beans. Gently mash some of the beans against the side of the bowl to thicken the chili. Stir in the cornmeal and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Let sit a few minutes to soften the cornmeal. Serve sprinkled with a little of the Monterey Jack cheese. 

Serves 6.
PER SERVING: 287 calories, 3 g fat (1 g sat), 27 g protein, 38 g carb, 9 g fiber, 736 mg sodium, 45 mg cholesterol

Source: Family Circle
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy Friday!

I know I was short on posts this week. It has been cold, rainy, and gloomy here this week which has prevented me from getting good pictures of anything. So, until next week...take a look at what I have over on my craft blog today

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Quick Banana Pudding

Remember when I did those cute Banana Pudding Bites? Well, I decided to take another go at another quick banana pudding dessert, and this time I made individual banana pudding parfaits. These are by no means traditional banana pudding desserts, but they are quick and still very yummy! Oh, and they're cute to boot! Perfect for when you're craving something sweet, but don't wanna bake anything. Enjoy!

2 pkg. (4-serving size each) instant vanilla pudding
4 cups milk
Vanilla wafers
5 to 6 medium ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 cups), divided
2 cups thawed whipped topping, like Cool Whip

1. Prepare pudding with milk as directed on package.

2. Spoon 1/2 cup pudding in bottom of 2 quart serving bowl. Top with 8 wafers, generous layer of sliced bananas and 1 cup pudding. Stand 12 wafers around outside edge of dish. Continue layering 12 wafers, sliced bananas, 1 cup pudding, 15 wafers, sliced bananas, and remaining pudding. Cover.

3. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight to soften cookies. To serve, spread whipped topping over pudding. Garnish with additional banana slices, if desired. 

As you can see, I did these in individual trifles instead of one big bowl....lot easier for me not to put too much in a bowl and indulge too much. ;) And, if you use sugar-free fat-free pudding, fat-free milk, and light or fat free whipped topping, you have a low calorie, low fat dessert that tastes just as yummy. Score!! 

Source: Kraft Foods