Cinnamon Roll Caramel Popcorn

By popcorn experiment # 4, the sons and I had had enough spicy seasonings and were ready to venture back into sweeter waters. Obviously, ‘cinnamon roll’ popcorn was a must-try. The smells coming from my stopve-top and oven were incredible. With that first mouth-watering bite we discovered the finished product didn’t disappoint. It actually tasted like a cinnamon roll (but with crunch!). Who knew?! In fact, it was soooo good, that we bagged a second batch up and gave it out to family & friends as late Christmas gifts.

Sorry for my lack of picture planning. My camera battery died before I could nap a picture of the drizzled white chocolate topping. This second batch didn’t stick around long enough for me to get one afterwards either. Little popcorn monsters!

Seriously though, this is the next big thing (at least in the popcorn world).  It is completely amazing: buttery, crunchy, caramel popcorn with a burst of cinnamon and a drizzle of white chocolate.

Cinnamon Roll Caramel Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cinnamon Roll Popcorn

recipe originally from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

18 cups popped popcorn (about 3/4 cup kernels)
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces white chocolate, melted

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Grease two large rimmed baking sheets and set aside.
2. Place the popcorn in a really large bowl (or two separate large bowls if you don’t have an extra big one).
3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When melted add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil while stirring. Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for 3 minutes. The mixture will be slightly thickened. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will bubble so be careful.
4. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and mix until the popcorn is evenly coated.
5. Turn the popcorn out onto the baking sheets, spreading into an even layer on each sheet. Bake the popcorn for one hour*, stirring and tossing every 20 minutes. Move the bottom tray to the upper rack and vice versa each time you stir. The popcorn will deepen in color and harden a bit as the caramel bakes and sets.
6. When the popcorn comes out of the oven, scrape it onto an even layer of parchment or wax paper.
7. Drizzle the white chocolate over the top (using the tines of a fork to drizzle it across or pour the melted chocolate into a freezer quart-size ziploc bag and snip a corner to drizzle).
8. Let the popcorn sit until white chocolate is set, 30 minutes or so. Break into pieces. Try not to eat the entire batch. I’m not kidding.

* If you like a bit of chewiness to your toffee-like popcorn, bake it for 40 minutes instead of the full hour.

Buttery Cajun Popcorn

Calling all popcorn lovers! If you, or someone you know, loves the crunchy little snack you’ve got to check out this easy seasoning recipe. This gem was popcorn experiment # 3. And might I say, it was well worth the wait. It does have a nice kick to it, but lessen the Cajun seasoning to create a more mild version. Make a batch, grab a bowl, and dig in while you enjoy some qt with the family.  A handful of popcorn can make any thing more memorable.

Buttery Cajun Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: Buttery Cajun Popcorn

recipe adapted from Taste of Home

12 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
4 tsp Cajun seasoning
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Pop popcorn according to package directions, and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Combine the melted butter with either the lemon or lime juice. Slowly pour them evenly over the popcorn and then stir to completely coat.
3. Combine the Cajun seasoning and grated cheese. Sprinkle them evenly over the popcorn and again, give it a good stir to completely coat.
4. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Popcorn

What is it about the combination of pb & j that kids loved so much. Seriously? I remember eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches every chance I got as as kid. Any meal, any time. I didn’t care. I’m pretty sure I o.d.ed  on it I ate it so much. As an adult the thought of eating it makes me feel slightly ill. Yep, definitely o.d.ed on the two as a kid. Thankfully, my own kids seem to have managed to avoid the same fate. They beg for the stuff. I’ve caught all of them at least once, ok maybe twice, hiding in the pantry and eating peanut butter by the spoonful out of the jar. They love it on celery sticks. Apple slices? You bet! Even tortillas. My crazy kids use peanut butter like it’s a condiment.

With that in mind, we decided to get creative with our next popcorn experiment. I hit the web and found this simple, but totally awesome, looking recipe for Peanut Butter & Jelly popcorn. The finished product knocked their little socks off. I’m talking toe-curlingly delicious level. It was snack time and dessert all rolled into one. Even I enjoyed the stuff.

Fix a batch for your own pb & j fans and rock their world.

PB & J Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: PB & J Popcorn

recipe originally from Something Swanky

8 cups popped popcorn (about 1/4 cup kernels, popped)
1 cup white chocolate, divided
1 1/2 tbsp. grape jelly & 1 tbsp. peanut butter

Directions

1. Divide Popcorn as evenly as possible into two separate bowls.
2. Over medium low heat on the stove top, melt 1/2 cup white chocolate with 1 tbsp. peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Pour over 1 bowl of the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to mix well and coat thoroughly. Spread out on a silicon mat or parchment paper to let cool.
3. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1/2 cup white chocolate with 1 1/2 tbsp grape jelly over medium low heat on the stove top. Stir until smooth. Pour over the other bowl of popcorn, and stir with rubber spatula to coat well. Spread out on silicon mat or parchment paper to let cool.
4. Once both batches of popcorn are cooled enough that the coatings are set, mix them both together in a bowl and serve!

The Great Popcorn Experiment (aka Christmas Break)

Christmas Break. Two whole weeks with the sons without schedules or commitments. In true son’ style we made the second week a giant movie marathon. We watched one each day, and one each night. It was great qt snuggled up with my favorite guys. We enjoyed re-watching some of our long-time family favorites and found some new gems to add to our collection along the way. A week long double feature movie marathon meant a whole lot of popcorn. Who wants to watch a movie without munchies? After day 2, plain popcorn wasn’t cutting it. We decided to ‘spice’ it up. This meant a whole lot of experimenting with spices and new popcorn ideas. It was amazing. We might even have a new tradition on our hands. Each movie became it’s own unique experience with everyone looking forward to the ‘special’ popcorn. This week I will be sharing our new favorites that we found. Today is Cheddar Chili Popcorn, and it’s pretty darn tasty.

Plain old buttered popcorn is out. Gourmet, flavored popcorn is in.

Cheddar Chili Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheddar Chili Popcorn

recipe adapted from Clarks Condensed

8 cups popped popcorn
5 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp nacho cheddar popcorn powder seasoning
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder

Directions

1. Separate kernels from popcorn, and place popcorn in a large bowl.
2. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl.
3. Mix the cheddar powder, chili powder, and mustard powder with the butter.
4. Slowly pour the butter mixture over the popcorn, shaking the popcorn as you do it so one spot doesn’t get overly saturated.
5. Let the popcorn cool about thirty minutes before serving.

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

This meal is easy and perfect for our busy nights. The chicken comes out cooked to perfection with the perfect kick. Customize your ‘kick’ by adding less buffalo sauce or more, to taste. Don’t have buffalo wing sauce? Substitute hot sauce. I heart a flexible recipe!

You’ll want good bread. Life is far too short and unpredictable to suffer through bad bread. Trust me on this. Don’t go sale, don’t go clearance. Go fresh. We made ours using a nice fresh loaf of sour dough, the slices toasted to perfection.

Good butter goes with good bread. Turn these into a delicious grilled cheese version by buttering the outsides of both slices, adding some shredded cheddar and/or blue cheese crumbles to the inside, and ‘grilling’ on a hot griddle until the outside are nice and crisped with melted cheese inside.

These sandwiches are perfect for any occasion: a delicious dinner, a game day snack, you name it!

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (12 oz.) bottle buffalo wing sauce
2 tablespoons ranch mix seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 loaf of sour dough bread, or other crusty bread
shredded cheddar cheese or blue cheese crumbles (optional)
ranch dressing (optional)

Directions

1. Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased slow cooker.
2. In medium bowl, combine the buffalo wing sauce and ranch seasoning.
3. Pour hot sauce mixture over chicken in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
4. Shred chicken breasts in the slow cooker, or use your paddle attachment and easily shred them in a stand mixer. Stir in butter until melted.
5. Pile buffalo chicken onto toasted slices of crusty bread. Top with cheese and/or ranch dressing, if desired.

Maple Glazed Thyme Roasted Carrots

Do you like your vegetables? On the fence? Turn your veggies into something you love with these Maple Glazed Thyme Roasted Carrots. Tender roasted carrots are glazed with smooth maple syrup, sauteed with thyme leaves, and roasted to perfection. It’s sure to be your go to side dish for any meal.

Maple Glazed Thyme Roasted Carrots

Read more

Healthy Ham & Lentil Soup

A hearty soup that incorporates those holiday ham leftovers you just might have lying around, this Healthy Ham & Lentil Soup is simple, savory, slurp-able Winter weather comfort food. Ladle it into bowls for a filling dinner, pack it into a thermos for a delicious guilt free lunch, or even take a batch to a friend.

Healthy Ham & Lentil Soup

Read more

Crockpot Hot Chocolate (with Cool-Whip toppers)

Has anyone else had colds, fevers, and just all-out sickness invade their home and family recently? We’ve finally fought off the ick, but for a solid week it rampaged through our house and no one was spared. Even know when we’re all technically ‘well’, we’re still physically recovering. We’ve pretty much decided we’ll be couch potatoes this weekend while we recuperate. A cup of piping hot hot-chocolate was just what the doctor ordered to help lift our spirits.

This is so easy to make and by-far the richest, creamiest, most-chocolaty hot chocolate I’ve ever had. It’s perfect for fighting the blues, or even just to knock the Winter chill off. None of that pre-packaged stuff will ever give us our fix again. The cute little coolwhip toppers are the perfect little addition too. Between the frigid temps, coughs and colds, and post-Christmas stupor this is the perfect little pick-me-up.

Crockpot Hot Chocolate (with Cool-Whip toppers)

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Hot Chocolate (with Cool Whip toppers)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk, or 1 1/4 cup homemade condensed milk
6 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For Cool Whip Toppers

1 small tub of cool whip
shallow baking dish
cookie cutters

Directions

1. Stir together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips in a crockpot.
2. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot and chocolate chips are melted. Stir again before serving. Garnish as desired.

Cool Whip Toppers

1. Evenly spread thawed cool whip into an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking dish. Set in freezer and allow to freeze for at least 2-3 hours.
2. When re-frozen, remove the cool whip from freezer. Using cookie cutters, cut shapes out. Use a butter knife to gently remove the shapes away from any excess cool whip.
3. Gently place shape on top of a mug of hot cocoa and enjoy.

Crockpot Maple-Glazed Walnuts

The countdown is coming to a close. Christmas is coming in just a few days. I’m already looking forward to the food, family, and fellowship. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that no holiday is complete without some nuts. Whether it’s quirky cousin Larry, or the edible kind. These are the nuts you want. Trust me, you want these walnuts at your festivities. They’re A-mazing. As soon as I had them spread out and drying, mouths were watering. At least half of them disappeared before packaging. The pilfering was getting a little out of control. I had to put them up. For the kids sake, as well as my own. I don’t even like walnuts all that much, and I could have easily eaten the entire batch. But I didn’t. (You have no idea the amount of self control that required)

Is there a foodie in your life? In your family? If you can resist the temptation to gobble them all up, give them as a gift of love (that’s sure to be a hit). That or bring a batch to share at the table. On second thought, bring two batches. They certainly won’t last long.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Maple Glazed Walnuts

These are my new addiction. Sprinkle them over ice cream for a dessert that is to die for.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Maple Glazed Walnuts 2

recipe adapted from Vegan In The Freezer

1 lb bag of shelled walnuts, whole or halved
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. Put the butter, syrup, and vanilla into your crockpot. Turn on low and allow the butter to melt completely (only takes a few minutes).
2. Mix in the walnuts and mix from the bottom so all of the coating is all over the walnuts and not on the bottom of the pot.
3. Cook on low 1 hour then stir. Cook another one half hour to one hour more.
4. Turn out onto wax paper and let cool – completely.
5. Pack in an airtight container. The walnuts will keep in the fridge about 6 weeks and will keep in the freezer for about 3 months.

Super-Soft Eggnog Cookies

I remember growing up and seeing all the adults drinking eggnog on Christmas Eve & Christmas day. Us kids were left at the ‘kids table’. It was a table. It was also in my grandmother’s laundry room/pantry/sewing room off of the kitchen. It didn’t bother us though. The grown-ups didn’t see us sneak a glass of the good stuff for ourselves or notice it make it’s way quickly around our little table as we each took a sip. I know what you’re thinking. Shame on you! It was non-alcoholic. Being an adult now with four boys, I totally get why they hoarded the stuff. I’m pretty stingy doling it out myself as well.

To this day, my kids and I (still) love eggnog. We wait all year long for the creamy concoction to hit the store shelves again. My husband, he hates it. This cookie won him over. He was impressed. It was moist, chewy, and the eggnog taste was just right. Seriously, he ate 12. In less than 5 minutes. He may not be ready to actually drink a cold, frothy glass full but he’s behind eggnog a little bit. And that’s enough for me! For now. Before he avoided it like that little milk jug was hiding the Ebola virus in our refrigerator.

As for me, and my family, we’ve seen the light. Eggnog is so much more than just the nectar of the gods a drink. It’s an amazing, drool-worthy addition to multiple recipes. Cookies today. Tomorrow, the world! It’s time for an eggnog revolution. What do you say?

Super-Soft Eggnog Cookies

4 Sons 'R' Us: EggNog Cookies

recipe originally from I Heart Naptime

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup eggnog

Eggnog Icing

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp eggnog
ground nutmeg, for garnish

4 Sons 'R' Us: EggNog Cookies

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg yolks and vanilla to the mixture and beat until smooth. Finally, add eggnog and mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Slowly add flour mixture into the eggnog mixture and stir until combined. Chill dough for 20 minutes.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use a cookie scoop or drop spoonfuls of dough onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Do not over cook. Remove cookies from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
4. For icing, whisk powdered sugar and eggnog together. Add more sugar or eggnog, depending on the consistency you prefer.
5. Drizzle icing on cooled cookies and sprinkle with nutmeg. Store in a air tight container in the refrigerator.