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.


No Added Salt Party Mix

I have a friend coming to town who is on a salt free diet. There will be a Saints game while he is here and I wanted to make a party mix that he could enjoy.

I’m using a salt free blend from Penzey’s Spices called Arizona Dreaming. It is spicy and flavorful with ancho chili pepper, black pepper, onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, cilantro, lemon peel, chipotle pepper, red pepper, jalapeño and cocoa. It adds wonderful flavor but not a lot of heat.

In my go-to party mix (Circles and Squares), I use Worcestershire Sauce. Because that has a lot salt in it, I instead replaced the sauce with Liquid Smoke to add a depth of flavor without added salt.

It is quite delicious and a good replacement for salty snack mix. Unfortunately, the Saint’s game today (they lost 10-20 to the Steelers) was not as enjoyable as my mix!

No Salt Added Party Mix

1 box Crispex cereal (15 oz) about 12 cups
1 box Cheerios cereal (8.9 oz) about 6 cups
2 cups unsalted roasted cashew halves and pieces
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (I used Figaro)
1 tablespoon Arizona Dreaming (or other salt free spice mix)

Mix cereals and nuts together in a large roasting pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the liquid smoke and salt-free mix. Pour over the cereal, stirring well to coat evenly. Bake 1 hour in a 250 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Raisin Bran Muffins

Regular readers of this blog know my girlfriend is much more health conscious in her eating than I am. Case in point is our cereal shelf – I have a box of Frosted Flakes next to her box of Bran Flakes. I was doing my spring clean-out and saw that her box of Bran Flakes was getting a little old – not quite stale but needing to be used.

To make some good girlfriend points, I decided to make her Bran Muffins. I knew, however, I wouldn’t be able to eat them without also adding raisins and cinnamon so I altered the recipe from my mom’s recipe box.

The muffins are pretty darn tasty for something so good for you! Nice and light with a touch of sweet from the raisins. Enjoy!

Raisin Bran Muffins

24 paper baking cups
2 cups bran flakes cereal, I used Post Bran Flakes
1 ½ cups milk
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 400°F. Place a paper baking cup in each cup of two 12 cup regular-size muffin tins (24 muffins total).

Place cereal in a bowl and use the bottom of glass to crush cereal into fine crumbs. Pour in milk, raisins and vanilla and mix well. Let stand about 5 minutes or until cereal has softened. Beat in the oil and egg with a fork.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together until well mixed. Fold flour mixture into cereal mixture just until no flour streaks remain. The batter will still be lumpy. Spoon the batter into the cups, dividing batter evenly.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan to a cooling rack. Serve warm or once cooled.

Muffins can be frozen after they’ve cooled completely.

Pasteli – Greek Power Bars

These little bars are packed with lots of sweet, healthy goodness and make a terrific snack, day or night. I first had them at a wedding in Greece (the seeds are for fertility and the honey for a sweet marriage) but they are ancient in origin and were a common goodie for Olympians to nosh on between competitions.

Look for Greek Thyme honey in Greek/Mediterranean/International grocery stores. If you can’t find it (and trust me, it is worth it), use another aromatic honey like wildflower or even orange blossom.

I do roughly equal parts honey and sesame seeds by weight, so once I buy the honey and see what it is, I then buy the seeds. The last batch I bought was in small cans from Crete.

You can also usually buy sesame seeds in larger quantities at those groceries or Penzey’s Spices has pretty good prices on a 3 cup bag, which I supplemented with a jar of sesame seeds I had in the pantry.

The addition of the sugar makes the candy harder, so drop it down to a tablespoon if you want very chewy bars/balls.

So good and very good for you, too.


450 grams Greek Thyme honey
450 grams sesame seeds
¼ cup granulated sugar
pinch salt

Place a piece of parchment in a large, rimmed baking tray and coat lightly with a neutral oil. Lightly oil another piece of parchment and set it aside.

Toast the sesame seeds in a 325 degree F oven until fragrant. Don’t let them brown as they will become bitter.

Place the honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add in the sugar and salt and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and add in the toasted sesame seeds. Stir to combine over low heat and cook for a minimum of 5 minutes – the longer they’re cooked after that, the crunchier the bars will be.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Place over the other piece of parchment and use a rolling pin to press and form it into an even layer.

Let cool one hour and then flip over and cut into rectangles, squares or the traditional diamond. I roll the extra pieces into balls to just pop in my mouth when I need a hit.

Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.


Olive Cheese Bites

It is always a treat to find vintage party-food recipes in my mom’s recipe box. This particular one takes cheese straws up a notch by using a similar dough to encase pimento stuffed green olives for a briny, cheesy appetizer.

I decided these would be my game day treat for when the New Orleans Saints play the Los Angeles Rams today in the NFL Conference Championship.

I only baked half and froze the rest for the next event. Who knows – it could be for Super Bowl LIII!

Geaux, Saints!

**Author’s note**

If you use something other than extra sharp cheddar, you will need to add a bit more flour as the dough will not firm up enough.

48 to 50 small manzanilla olives (pimento stuffed green olives)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 tablespoons
8 oz (about 2 cups) extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg

Drain the olives and pat them with paper towels to dry them.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour and spices until well-mixed. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, grated cheese and softened butter. Pulse until combined. Crack the egg into the food processor and pulse until a dough forms. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

Remove the dough and work with half at a time. Break off 24 teaspoon to marble-sized pieces of the dough and flatten them into the palm of your hand, making a small disk just large enough to encase an olive. Place an olive in the center of the dough, then wrap the dough around the olive until it’s sealed. Roll it in your palms until it is smooth and ball-shaped. Place the ball on an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. Repeat until all of the dough is used, spacing the balls about an inch apart.

At this point you can bake them right away, refrigerate them for baking later or, even freeze the dough on cookie sheets, and then store them in zip top bag for baking at a later date.

If you’re baking these immediately, place the cookie sheet with the dough into a preheated 400 degree F oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, watching carefully, or until the dough is lightly browned and firm to the touch. Transfer the bites to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If frozen, allow the dough to thaw while the oven preheats. Bake them about 5 minutes longer when they’ve been frozen.

Salty Garlicky Roasted Edamame

I’ve been making snacks all weekend (Spicy, Chili Cheesy Dip, Cocoa Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Chickpeas, Circles and Squares). I couldn’t stop there, so I grabbed the bag of shelled edamame and got to work.

Salty Garlicky Roasted Edamame

1 bag frozen, shelled edamame
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Thaw bag of frozen edamame in a strainer. For a quick thaw, run frozen edamame under running water. Spread thawed edamame onto a towel to dry.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, salt and garlic. Stir in edamame and toss to coat. Spread the edamame onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, shaking the pan regularly. Edamame is done when it is browned and crispy.

Store in an airtight container.

Optional: toss with 2 to 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese while stir warm.

Crunchy Cocoa Cinnamon Sugar Chickpeas

I’m making snack foods this weekend. This is another really simple one that you can flavor pretty much however you want. I went for sweet plus chocolate goes really well with cinnamon. Because of the sugar, I didn’t add the flavorings until after they had roasted. If going the savory route, you can add the spices when you add the olive oil.

Roasted chickpeas are a healthy treat but don’t eat them all at once. They are still beans.

Crunchy, Cocoa Cinnamon Sugar Chickpeas

1 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Set them on a towel to dry. Peel off the skins – if you don’t do this step, the oven roasted chickpeas will not get crunchy. Dry again and put in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, shaking the pan midway through cooking.

Remove chickpeas from the oven and pour into a bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the chickpeas and stir to coat completely. Return to pan and the chickpeas to the oven and continue to bake for 30-40 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. They are done when they are golden and crispy.

In a small bowl combine sugar, cinnamon and cocoa. Stir to combine.

Remove chickpeas from oven and pour in a bowl. Toss with a couple tablespoons of the cocoa cinnamon sugar to coat. Place remaining cocoa cinnamon sugar in an airtight container for another use.

Return the chickpeas to baking sheet and place back in the oven with the heat turned off. Crack the oven door and let them stay in the oven to cool slowly.

Snack on them still warm or after they’ve cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Gebrannte Pecannuss in the Slow Cooker

I’m an army brat and have very fond memories of the getting the still warm paper cones of Gebrannte Mandeln or Erdnuss while walking around the open air markets, like the Christkindlesmarkt  in Nuremberg, Germany. The almonds or peanuts cooked in sugar and cinnamon were a special treat and so very addictive.

I found a number of recipes to replicate them and was most pleased to even find some that could be done without chaining myself to the stove. Slow cooker to the rescue! Further, being a southerner through and through, I can attest pecans make the best gebrannte nuss.


Gebrannte Pecannuss in the Slow Cooker

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups pecans
1/4 cup water

In large bowl, stir together sugars, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In small bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla until a little frothy.

Coat the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray. Add nuts to slow cooker. Pour egg white mixture over nuts, and stir until nuts are evenly coated. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over nuts, and stir until nuts are all coated well. Cover; cook on low heat setting 3.5 hours, stirring every 20 minutes.

For the final 20 minutes, pour 1/4 cup water into slow cooker and stir. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pecans onto the sheet to cool. The pecans should be pretty sticky so be sure to separate them the best that you can and let them cool.

For an added kick – add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the cinnamon sugar.

The Birdseed Bars Wile E Coyote Should Have Made

afbd6edf6e0d3e95765c1e6a78d659dbWile E Coyote tried many times to catch the Road Runner by putting out piles of boobey-trapped birdseed. The Road Runner always ate and ran before Wille E Coyote’s evil plan could come to fruition.


What Mr. Coyote should have done is make these bird seed bars. Worth sticking around to finish, no matter the consequences!


Because I am taking these bars with me to the NO/AIDS Walk on Saturday, I pulled out half before adding only one cup of semisweet chocolate to the remaining. The bars are still delicious and will make much less mess on the hands!

Birdseed Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, etc)
2 cups semi-sweet morsels
1 recipe honey carmel sauce (recipe below)

Toast oats on a large baking tray in a 350 degree F oven for five minutes. Add all the seeds to the tray and mix before baking 5 minutes more. Pour into a large mixing bowl with the dried fruit and set aside.

Honey Caramel Sauce

1 stick butter
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Mix together butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until it comes to a rolling boil. Stir 2 minutes more. Add in can of sweetened condensed milk and continue to stir until it is mixed well.

Add the honey caramel sauce to the seed mixture and stir well. Add in the semi-sweet morsels and then transfer mixture to parchment lined baking tray. Press flat, working fairly quickly as mixture hardens as it cools.

Place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Remove from tray and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

White Trash Snack

I’m a snack mix fiend and sometimes, when I’ve overdosed on my go-to version (Circles and Squares), I make a dessert snack mix that is most commonly known as White Trash.
White Trash

2 (11oz.) bags of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
6 cups Crispex
3 cups Honeycomb Cereal
2 cups pretzel sticks

Combine the cereals and pretzels in a large bowl. Seriously, unless you want stuff ending up on the floor, you need a very large bowl in which to mix everything together. 

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, stirring regularly.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal/pretzel mixture and toss until all ingredients are covered with chocolate. Hands work better than spoons.

Pour the mixture onto waxed paper and allow to set for 30 minutes, unless you live in an area of high humidity and you’ll need to wait a little longer.

Break into pieces and store in a air tight container.

Optional – Consider using Cheerios or Captain Crunch in place of the Honeycomb cereal. Also, consider adding mixed nuts, m&m’s, Reece’s pieces, etc. Remember, the second word in the name is
trash so feel free to add in anything you’d like to eat with white chocolate coating.