Caramel-Masala Popcorn & Pistachios

Caramel Masala Popcorn

Think of a food with the power to polarize. Coconut instantly comes to mind. I have met people who love it or hate it, but I have never heard anyone say they did not really care one way or the other about coconut. Beets are part of the conversation. I loathe beets. I thought I was the only one in the “I hate beets” camp until recent banter among friends revealed everyone thought beet wine (which like beet beer, I am willing to try) would taste like dirt. I guess the only thing nice to say about beets is they are a beautiful color.

What else is tough on the palate? Melon probably gets an honorable mention. Cilantro is most definitely in the conversation. Oddly enough, a few people I know  disdain bananas. And then there is popcorn. A snack so great it is served at every movie theater in America, yet some people hate it.

Caramel Masala Popcorn

I will admit I am biased in my warm feelings towards popcorn. You see, popcorn is my family snack. Bowls of it always magically appeared out of nowhere when I was up in my room reading a book or lounging on the couch watching television. The magic part was pretty much my dad popping a bag or two in the microwave and then delivering it to his girls because he loves us. But still, magic.

Then somewhere in the course of our family history, my grandmother began making caramel corn each year at Christmas. Each of her children and their spouses and her adult grandchildren and their spouses get bags of caramel corn. By this point, that is 13 bags of caramel popcorn,  which is really no small task. So you see, popcorn is love.

I am not alone in my love for popcorn. This week, I teamed up with 14 other bloggers to share a variety of popcorn recipes. You can check out everyone’s popcorn creations via the links below, or search for our hashtag #popcornisforbloggers on social media. I have also added everyone’s creations to my Popcorn board on Pinterest.

Popcorn Week Contributors

Beth at bethcakes // Amy at Club Narwhal // Abby at The Frosted Vegan // Nick at Macheesmo // Linda at Brunch with Joy // Meghan and Cake ‘n Knife // Erica at The Crumby Cupcake // Molly at Hey There Sunshine // Meredith at Meredith Noelle // Katie at Twin Stripe // Sarah at The Sugar Hit // Erin at The Speckled Palate // LeAndra at Love and Flour // Heather at Sugar Dish Me // Susannah at Feast + West

Perhaps more exciting for you all is that we are giving away a movie night prize pack worth more that includes:

See the Rafflecopter below the recipe to enter to win.

If you do not happen to be the lucky winner this time around, take solace in knowing you have a boatload of kick-butt popcorn recipes to try, perhaps starting with this contribution of Caramel-Masala Popcorn with Pistachios. With a nod to both Grandma and my love for all things quirky, I found a classic caramel corn recipe taken up a notch with garam masala.

A spice blend traditionally used in Indian cooking, garam masala can include a variety of spices. The blend I used includes black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriader, and cumin. It is not uncommon to find nutmeg and cloves in the spice blend as well. Adding the garam masala to the caramel provides an unexpected flavor with a bit of heat. Throw in some pistachios, and call your friends to come help you eat this before you devour it all yourself. Enjoy!

Caramel-Masala Popcorn & Pistachios
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 cups popped popcorn (approximately ¼ heaping cup of kernels)
  • 1 cup roasted and shelled pistachios
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, optional
Instructions
  1. Spread the popcorn and pistachios across a large jelly roll pan, roasting pan, or baking dish and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Stir in the garam masala and cook until aromatic, about one minute.
  4. Add the brown sugar and the corn syrup and continue to cook, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil.
  5. When the mixture reaches a boil, begin stirring constantly and cook for another three to four minutes.
  6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the baking soda to lighten and expand the caramel.
  7. Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and pistachios and stir to combine. It's okay that the mixture will not evenly cover the popcorn.
  8. if using, sprinkle the salt over the caramel popcorn at this time.
  9. Bake the caramel popcorn at 250 degrees F for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes to distribute the caramel throughout the popcorn.
  10. After the hour, set the caramel corn aside to cool, continuing to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  11. Serve within a few hours or store in an airtight container for a few days.
Notes
I used dark brown sugar for this recipe. Light brown sugar, as called for in the original recipe, will give the caramel a lighter brown color.
 

Movie Night Giveaway

Giveaway Rules:

  1. Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter widget below. Everyone gets a free entry! You can enter multiple times, up to 18 additional entries, by following the giveaway sponsors on social media. (If you’ve followed in the past, that counts! Just enter the info as prompted.) All entries will be verified. No purchase is necessary to win.
  2. The giveaway is open until Friday, July 17, 2015 at 10 a.m. EST. One winner will be chosen at random and emailed within 48 hours. Winners must claim prize within 48 hours of initial contact. The retail value of the prize is $117. Prizes shown in the graphic are the only ones available.
  3. Open to U.S. residents with a valid shipping address only. Must be 18 years of age as of July 6, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A big thanks to Cabot Creamery and Bob’s Red Mill for generously sponsoring our project and giveaway!

Spicy Peanut Tofu with Sugar Snap Peas

Spicy Peanut Tofu

The first time I selected tofu as my protein could have very well been my last. Thin slices of slightly rubbery and surprisingly tasteless tofu were spaced throughout my noodle and veggie stir fry. I distinctly remember feeling disappointed and resigned to the possibility that meatless meals were destined to be less than great.

Fortunately, I am stubborn and bullheaded, so I tried tofu again. And again and again. Somewhere along the line it became my protein of choice when the menu offered the option. I even find myself craving the General Tso’s  or the coconut curry tofu the grocery stores I frequent put out on their daily hot bars.

Spicy Peanut Tofu

While tofu is not for everyone, tofu is also not just for vegetarians.  I have vegetarian-tendencies, but I still eat meat from time to time. I just never made tofu for myself because, truth be told, I was intimidated by it. I didn’t understand it.

Butter and sugar I can cream with my eyes closed. But prepare a dish with tofu? Mmm, maybe not. Would I drain and press it right? Could I make it without ruining it? Actually, how do you even cook it?

I still don’t know all the answers to that last question, but I can definitely state it is easy to bake. Easy and delicious. Spicy peanut sauce and sweet sugar snap peas deserve a lot of credit for the delicious part, but I can truly say I will return to this recipe when I’m craving a flavorful and filling dinner. Enjoy!

Spicy Peanut Tofu

Spicy Peanut Tofu with Sugar Snap Peas
 
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 package (12 or 14 ounces) firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 4 cups (about one pound) sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided.
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 heaping tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ cup roasted and salted cashews, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, toss the sugar snap peas with the sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Spread the mixture across a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. In the same (now empty) large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, sriracha sauce, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and lime juice.
  4. Cut the pressed and drained tofu into 9 equal blocks.
  5. Dredge the blocks of tofu through the peanut sauce and then layer across the sugar snap peas on the baking sheet. Drizzle any remaining peanut sauce across the whole mixture.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 25 minutes until the sugar snap peas are puckered and browned and the peanut sauce has thickened.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the chopped cashews over the dish before serving. Enjoy immediately.
Notes
It is imperative to dry the tofu thoroughly. To drain and press:
1. Line a plate or cutting board with two sheets of paper towels.
2. Place the tofu on top of the paper towels, then layer two more sheets of paper towels on top of the tofu and gently press down.
3. Replace the damp paper towels with dry ones, press a second time, and place a heavy plate, skillet, or cutting board on top of the whole setup.
4. Leave the tofu to press for 15 minutes.

This recipe is best served immediately and shared with others as it is not all that leftover friendly. Extra portions can be reheated, but the sauce and texture is not quite the same.
 

Strawberry Mint Cake

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Strawberry Mint Cake

In just 30 days, I managed to bookmark 124 pieces of content I found across the web. I saved articles to read “when I have the time” and resources I “might need to refer to one day.” A few random websites were thrown in there “just in case” I wanted to peruse them later. A feast of content awaits out there, which is precisely the excuse I need to keep this particular contribution to the table brief.

This tender cake gets a shot of flavor from fresh mint before it’s prettied up with saucy strawberries and sweet whipped cream. You will dirty approximately four mixing bowls, two cake pans, one saucepan, and various other measuring instruments and utensils during the three stages of its making. And it will all be worth it. Enjoy!

Strawberry Mint Cake

 

Strawberry Mint Cake

 

Strawberry Mint Cake

Strawberry Mint Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Cake
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup full fat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • For the Strawberry Filling
  • 2, 16-ounce containers fresh strawberries
  • zest of ½ lemon (about ½ teaspoon)
  • For the Whipped Cream Filling
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Garnish
  • a few extra strawberries and mint leaves
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the Greek yogurt, and vanilla extract. Continue to mix until well combined.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix until the batter is smooth.
  5. Fold in the fresh mint.
  6. Divide the cake batter evenly between two buttered and floured eight-inch round cake pans.
  7. Bake the cakes at 325 degrees F for about 40 minutes until set, slightly golden, and a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
  8. While the cake bakes, prepare the strawberry filling by hulling and slicing the strawberries.
  9. Reserve a few berries to use as a garnish, then place half of the remaining berries in a medium saucepan.
  10. Add the lemon zest and cook for about two minutes over low heat until the berries are fragrant and slightly soft.
  11. Remove the warm berries from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
  12. When the berries have come down in temperature, stir in the other half of the berries. Remember to keep the few berries set aside earlier as a garnish out of this berry mixture.
  13. When the cakes have cooled, prepare the whipped cream by beating the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until medium-stiff peaks form.
  14. Assemble the dessert by layering half of the strawberry mixture across one cake and then topping the berry layer with the whipped cream.
  15. Top this first layer of cake, berries, and whipped cream with the second cake.
  16. Again, cover the cake with the remaining berry mixture and whipped cream.
  17. Garnish with the reserved fresh berries and mint leaves if desired.
Strawberry Mint Cake