Praline Pecan Popcorn

I was browsing the recipe sections of butter websites, as one is wont to do if one is a southern baker, and came across a recipe for Praline Popcorn. I used their recipe with only minor alterations to make southern style caramel corn.

I use a LÉKUÉ microwave popcorn popper so I can make popcorn quickly, with less mess than on the stovetop but without the additives and extra salt and fat found in most commercial microwave popcorn. To pop enough for this recipe, I used ⅓ cup of kernels, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, ¼ teaspoon popcorn salt. It made more than eight cups but my dad kept stealing from the bowl, so I used what was left. The brown sugar/butter sauce will coat up to 10 cups of popcorn.

The pecans are lovely after being cooked slightly in the butter and brown sugar. The sweet caramel sauce added to the lightly salted popcorn makes a delicious treat.

Praline Pecan Popcorn

8 cups popped popcorn, lightly salted
1 cup pecans, chopped into pieces
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 250°F.

Place the popcorn in a large bowl.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add brown sugar and butter. Bring to a boil and add in the pecan pieces, stirring regularly.

After boiling for five minutes, remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. It will bubble up but stir until the chemical reaction completes and then pour the hot sauce over the popcorn and toss to coat.

Transfer mixture to a large rimmed baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Sometimes it is easier to pour it back into the large bowl to stir. Return to the baking sheet and continue baking. After 30 minutes, spread out onto foil or parchment paper to cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. Once cool, break apart to eat.

Store any remaining praline pecan popcorn in an airtight zip top bag.

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Easy French Toast

It is my mom’s birthday weekend, so I made French Toast for her. I have a super simple recipe that I use but I do recommend using whole milk. As we only had no-fat milk in the fridge, I changed my morning walk to include a gas station food mart where I picked up a pint.

Any good bread would work. I’m using a loaf of brioche. The better flavor the bread you begin with, the better French toast with which you end.

Super delicious – the interior of the bread is creamy and the outer edge was scented with the vanilla and cinnamon. She loved it and we did, too.

Easy French Toast

1 loaf good quality bread
2 cups milk
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Half a stick of butter

Slice the bread into 1 inch thick slices. Heat a flat bottom skillet until a droplet of water skitters across the surface.

Make the custard by scrambling the eggs into the milk in a pie plate. Add in the vanilla and cinnamon and whisk until combined. The cinnamon will float but that’s good as it means each piece of bread will get a little coating of cinnamon.

Use the stick of butter to grease the pan. Dredge two pieces of bread through the custard and place on the heated pan. Cook until one side is golden (about 3 minutes) and then flip. Once it is the desired doneness, remove and continue cooking the rest of the loaf. Keep the pieces warm on a rack in a 200 degree F oven.

Serve with maple, cane or Karo syrup. To be fancy, you could add a dusting of powdered sugar.

Grilled Greek Lemon Shrimp

I had planned on a different prep for this recipe but the shrimp I had were pretty small. Therefore, I decided to slice the lemons and use them as a base to keep the shrimp from dropping through the grill basket.

It worked really well for the grill – I think I only lost 2 shrimp to the fire!

If you don’t want to grill the shrimp, you could always put a layer of lemon slices on a sheet pan with the marinaded shrimp on them and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or so.

I also used Penzeys Greek Seasoning for the marinade. You could certainly make your own – see below for a recipe.

I served them with grilled zucchini (quartered into spears and tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper – grill them maybe 5 minutes longer than the shrimp) and rice.

The shrimp are really flavorful with both the spices, the grilled lemon and smoke. As this was for my mom’s birthday, I was super glad they turned out perfectly.

Grilled Greek Lemon Shrimp

1 ½ lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Greek Seasoning
3 lemons

Juice one lemon. Mix together the olive oil, spice blend and lemon juice. Pour into a zip top bag and add the shrimp. Gently massage the marinade into the shrimp and then seal and place in the refrigerator while you set up the grill (no more than 30 minutes).

Set up the grill for direct cooking. I use a Weber kettle and used a half a chimney of charcoal briquettes. After they got ashy, I spread them evenly over the center of the grill, in the shape of my grilling basket.

Thinly slice the remaining lemons. Place a single layer of the slices in the bottom of the grill basket and then spread the shrimp over the slices. Close the basket so no shrimp can escape. Grill for 5 minutes with the lemon side down. Flip and grill for 3-5 more minutes or until shrimp are done. They will be pink, opaque but not too firm to the touch.

Remove from grill and place shrimp in a bowl. Squeeze some of the lemon slices over the shrimp and serve.

You could definitely make your own Greek Seasoning. I’m at my parents and the blend was easier than mixing up my own. Here is my recipe:

[Greek Seasoning]

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Mix together all the spices and store in an airtight jar.

[/recipe]

Chocolate Cherry Scones

I’ve posted my recipe for Chocolate Cherry Sourdough Scones but, as I left my starter at home this trip, I needed to make my original version for breakfast New Year’s Eve.

The recipe makes 8 beautiful, large scones. You could do an egg wash on them but I like the melted butter.

scones

They are moist and well flavored with the bittersweet chocolate and cherries. By roughly chopping the chips and cherries, you make sure there is a bit of each in every bite.

scone

So very delicious!

Chocolate Cherry Scones

3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) chilled butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped
1 egg
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter
8 tablespoons sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add cherries and mix well.

Whisk together egg, milk and vanilla. Make a well in center of mixture and pour in milk mixture. Add this to the flour mixture and mix. Add in the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. With your hands, shape into a loose ball. Cut the dough ball in half. Flatten each half into a round about 6 to 8 inches and cut into 4 wedges. Place wedges on a baking sheet, being sure to separate each wedge so there is at least an inch between wedges. Generously brush with melted butter and sprinkle each scone with about a teaspoon of the sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm.

To freeze baked scones, let them cool completely and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze up to 3 months. When ready to eat, let thaw at room temperature or in the fridge overnight. Heat them up in the microwave for about 30 seconds to eat them warm.