Caramel Corn with Honey-Roasted Peanuts

Last weekend our neighborhood had its annual Fall bonfire party.  The food was potluck-style so we initially decided to celebrate the season by making Thai Pumpkin Soup.  Then the weather took a crazy turn and it ended up being 85 degrees and humid (very unusual for October in Pennsylvania!) and we quickly realized that no one was going to be in the mood to eat soup.  So, at the last minute we changed course and made a nice summery Mediterranean Quinoa Salad instead.  We didn’t want to be too healthy though, so we supplemented our potluck offering with some delicious homemade caramel corn!

721 Caramel Corn

This was our first time making caramel corn and I was amazed by how simple it was.  Granted, it was a bit labor intensive (we had to stir the popcorn every 15 minutes for an hour and a half) but there were no fancy candy thermometers or gadgets required.  Just a wok, some popcorn kernels, butter, sugar, corn syrup and honey roasted peanuts… easy!

We referred to our go-to Asian cookbook, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, for instructions on how to pop the popcorn in our wok (it’s a great way to season a wok!) and I used this recipe  Leite’s Culnaria for the caramel recipe and baking instructions.  We threw in some store-bought honey-roasted peanuts to kick the recipe up a notch and I would say that our homemade caramel corn turned out pretty perfect.  I think Matt would agree… he couldn’t stop eating it even as I was trying to take this photo!  🙂

738 Matt steals some caramel corn

Caramel Corn with Honey-Roasted Peanuts (adapted slightly from Leite’s Culinaria)

You will need…
1 cup uncooked Popcorn Kernels, divided
Peanut Oil
1 1/2 sticks Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/3 cup Light Corn Syrup
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup Honey Roasted Peanuts

Directions:
Pop the popcorn kernels.  To do this in a wok, heat approx. 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in your wok over medium heat.  Put 3-4 kernels in the wok and cover.  (For easier clean up, wrap the inside of your wok lid with aluminum foil!)  When the test kernels in the wok pop, add in approx. 1/3-1/2 cup of kernels and re-cover.  (If test kernels don’t pop, slowly increase the heat until they do, then add in the other kernels.)  Shake the wok over the burner to keep it moving as the kernels heat up.  In a few minutes the kernels will start to pop.  Keep shaking until popping slows down, then carefully tilt the cover open and transfer the popped corn to a large baking dish.

Repeat this process with the remaining kernels until all of your popcorn is popped.  You may need to use multiple baking dishes to hold your popcorn… you’ll be stirring it later so it’s better to leave some extra space!  Add the honey-roasted peanuts to the popcorn and place in a 200°F oven to keep warm.

How to pop popcorn in a wok

Prepare your caramel by heating the butter and sugar over medium heat.  Add in the corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil.  Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 5 minutes, remove the mixture from heat and carefully stir in the baking soda.  Remove the popcorn from the oven and pour the caramel mixture evenly over the popcorn.  Mix well with tongs (don’t worry if every kernel isn’t coated at this point, though) and return the popcorn to the 200° oven.

Bake the popcorn for 1 1/2 hours at 200°F, stirring and tossing thoroughly every 15 minutes.  Allow the popcorn to cool before eating (if you have the willpower to wait!).  Enjoy it immediately or store it in an airtight container for as long as it lasts (which won’t be long… it’s delicious!).

Stirring the caramel corn

Above: Caramel Corn during a stirring break.  Below: The finished product!

Caramel Corn

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Happy Autumn!  Last Sunday Matt and I celebrated the arrival of Fall by making pumpkin soup.  And this wasn’t just any pumpkin soup… it was THAI pumpkin soup with fresh ginger, coconut cream and jalapeños in it… yum!  We topped it off with a dash of hot Sriracha sauce, a few salty peanuts and some sprigs of fresh cilantro and it was delicious!!

Thai Pumpkin Soup

I discovered this recipe in the cook book that came with our glorious Vitamix blender.  The Vitamix (predictably) made quick work of pureeing the soft ingredients for this soup but you certainly don’t need a Vitamix to make this… I’m pretty sure that an immersion blender would allow you to whip up a pretty tasty Autumn soup as well.  🙂  Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Thai Pumpkin Soup (adapted from the Vitamix ‘Create’ Recipe Book)

You will need…
Olive Oil
1 Onion, choppedThai Pumpkin Soup
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
2  1/2 cups Canned Pumpkin
2 tablespoons fresh Ginger, chopped
1 clove Garlic, chopped
3 cups Chicken Broth (or vegetable broth, for vegetarian soup)
1 teaspoon Green Chiles, chopped (we used Jalapeños)
1 cup Lite Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Cream of Coconut
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Optional Garnishes:
Chopped Peanuts
Cilantro
Sriracha
Sour Cream

Directions:
In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent.  Add the tomato paste, pumpkin, ginger, garlic and broth and stir well.  Bring the mixture to a slow simmer then remove from heat.

If using a VItamix or other high-powered blender, pour the pumpkin mixture into the blender and add in the green chiles, coconut milk, cream of coconut and lemon juice.  Blend on high power for 25-30 seconds, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

If using an immersion blender, add the green chiles, coconut milk, cream of coconut, and lemon juice to the warm pumpkin mixture.  Use the immersion blender to puree the mixture into a smooth soup.  (Note:  I did not use an immersion blender so I don’t know how long this will take, but I’m sure it’s doable!)

Transfer the pureed pumpkin soup into bowls and garnish.  Our favorite combination of garnishes was a dash of Sriracha with a sprinkling of peanuts and a few sprigs of cilantro.  The Vitamix book recommended a dollop of sour cream with peanuts and cilantro… choose whatever sounds good to you!

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Above: Our favorite garnish combination of Sriracha, peanuts and cilantro.
Below: Garnished according to the cook book with sour cream, peanuts and cilantro.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

What’s your favorite Fall pumpkin recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments or post a link!

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is “An Unusual Point of View.”  I think that this photo of the beautiful lake at Promised Land State Park in Greentown, Pennsylvania fits the theme fairly well:

A different POV- Promised Land Lake thru the Conservation Island Bridge

I snapped this shot just as Matt and I canoed under a low bridge on a gorgeous October day.  It’s hard to believe that Summer’s lush green trees are going to look like this in another month… I can’t wait!!  🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

This week’s WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is “Changing Seasons.”  I recently decided that my favorite time of year is in fact the transition period between seasons so I think this topic is fantastic!

Matt and I have lived in our house for nearly two years now and I often find myself taking photos of the view from the north-facing edge of our tiny deck.  I have amassed quite a collection of photos throughout the changing seasons so I’ll use this Photo Challenge as an excuse to share some of them!

Changing Seasons: Looking out over Willistown Township

Do you have any favorite photos that illustrate “Changing Seasons” ?  Please feel free to link to them below or link to your blog if you are also participating in the Weekly Photo Challenge!