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What’s Cookin’ at Callie’s Cabin: Popcorn with a Taste of Summer

Cal Orey
Special to the Tribune
Glass bowl of popcorn coated with caramel
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

The season for summer fun food is on its way. Let me introduce you to caramel popcorn, an all-American sweet treat created with popcorn and a sugary syrup to make the popped kernels caramelized. This snack food is chock-full of crunch (with nuts, all kinds) and deliciousness.

As a kid, I remember the original Cracker Jack box filled with caramel coated popcorn with a prize in each container. These days, you can find different gourmet brands in bags at stores, fairs, order via online, and candy shops. And I did just that one late spring day…

I headed to San Francisco for a Barnes and Noble book-signing for my vinegar book. Two dogs, one best friend and my sibling accompanied me on this trek. When I arrived at the bookstore, it was a rude awakening. Someone forgot to order books, customers were nowhere. I was disappointed. While my people and pets were having fun I was feeling like a failed author. On the way home we stopped at a candy shop in Placerville’s where I filled up on salt water taffy and caramel popcorn. It helped soothe my wounded ego. Once back on the South Shore, I learned someone dropped the ball but a large order of my AWOL book went back to press. This week I made caramel popcorn for old time’s sake.

Honey Lime Caramel Cashew Popcorn

5 cups whole grain lime and salt gourmet popped microwave popcorn

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1/2 cup European style butter (melted)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon 2% low-fat organic milk

3/4 cup cashews, halves, lightly salted

In a large bowl, combine perfectly popped popcorn (do not under or over cook) with a mixture of butter, sugar, honey and milk. Fold in nuts. Place on a parchment lined pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn once. Watch and when bubbly and toasted removed from oven. Cool. Keep in a sealed plastic container. The fridge is best for storing. Serves 4.

Caramel Coconut Peanut Popcorn

5 cups gourmet butter and sea salt microwave popcorn

¼ cup European style butter (melted)

¼ cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

¼ cup coconut

1 cup Spanish peanuts, shelled

½ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

In a large bowl, combine popcorn with a mixture of butter, sugar and honey. Fold in coconut and nuts. Place on a parchment-lined pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about for about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn once. Watch and when bubbly and toasted remove from oven. Cool. Keep in sealed plastic container. The fridge is best. Serves 4.

The gooey cashew nut popcorn with a hint of lime and more butter and more sugar was my favorite, while the peanut kind was tasty but not as special. It is sweeter. Homemade caramel popcorn is a nice sugary spin on Cracker Jack, but to keep it good for you dish it up in small portions with iced tea or coffee. It’ll take you back to summer days of yesteryear and likely help to create new memories this year.

Motto: Sweet foods from the past can be enjoyed in the present especially if you give them a new twist from the heart and home.

Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. Her website is http://www.calorey.com.


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