FPP Title RW 3

Last month around this time I was pining away for a Foodie Pen Pals box that hadn’t shown up yet.  Hoping to do what I do best which is create a recipe from a random box of goodies.  Well, my friends, it showed up.  Two weeks later, more than three weeks after it was sent, completely open and looking like (according to the postal worker) it had been around the block a few times.

Like I said last month, people are such variables.  In this case it was the post office who had no reasonable explanation for the box’s condition and tardiness.

It is what it is.  I haven’t done anything with that box yet (other than munch on some fruit snacks and test out a tasty seasoning mix) so I’m actually not here to talk about it.

Technically I’m not even here today to talk about Foodie Pen Pals.  At least not the official Foodie Pen Pals hosted by the ever fabulous Lean Green Bean.  I plan on hopping back on that bandwagon next month, but this month an opportunity presented itself that I just couldn’t turn down.  The opportunity to pick my own Foodie Pen Pal.

One of the best parts of the FPP program (besides the food of course) is meeting new folk.  In my FPP travels last year I “met” Meredith, a journalist for The Gazette in Eastern Iowa and a fellow FPPer.  Meredith writes the cover story for The Gazette’s food page as well as a column.  We have exchanged numerous e-mails and I’d like to think we’re friends!  Hopefully she thinks so too.

If memory serves (I make no apologies for my post baby brain if memory doesn’t serve), last year Meredith and I batted around the idea of exchanging a FPP box when the weather cooled down enough to mail chocolate without fear of meltage.  Yes, I made up that word.  No, Meredith would probably not have done so in her column.

Long story short, one of us tweeted and the other tweeted back and we decided to do this thing for realsies.  Meredith would probably also not use the word realsies.

There might be a reason she has a column and I don’t.

Anywho.  This was the perfect Foodie Pen Pal swap!  It was seamless in every way and just a little more fun getting a box from someone I knew.

Meredith sent me the following:

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Raspberry Jam.  I love me some Amish jam.

Beef Jerky.  The Husband has claimed this for his very own.

Tiny but Mighty Popcorn.  Tiny.  Mighty.  Tasty!

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Milk Chocolate Caramels.  Yes, please.

Maple Sugar Candies.  A local fellow makes these as well and they are goooooood.

Pumpkin Butter.  I love pumpkin.  ‘Nuff said.

Spice Mixes.  Lovely aromas.

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I only used the Tibetan spice mix for my Chopped Challenge since the other spice mix had a shrimp recipe suggestion and I have two pounds of shrimp just chillaxin’ away in the deep freeze.

If I keep making up words, Meredith might not want to be friends anymore so I had best stop now.  It’s doneso.  I’m stopping nowso.

Meredith also sent a recent article she wrote for her paper . . .

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as well as a book which I can’t wait to read!

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It’s on the top of the headboard making friends with Catch 22, Woman at Point Zero, the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook and Deadliest Catch fame Sig Hansen’s North by Northwestern.  I clearly have varied tastes.  Varied tastes is a good thing considering what I did with Meredith’s box.

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I knew from the moment I laid my nose on the spice blend, my eyes on the popcorn and my stomach on the milk chocolate covered caramels I wanted to make caramel corn.

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Since dumping all the ingredients into one popcorn recipe could only result in recreating  Armageddon, a culinary term coined by my college pal on summer vacation when on our last morning at the lakeside cabin we dumped every last bit of food remaining into a breakfast hash, I decided to create three recipes.

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Scrap the made up words, Armageddon is why I don’t have a food column. And why I consider myself a food satire blogger rather than a food blogger.

Anywhen, back to the caramel corn.

While The Husband popped the popcorn (he’ll do just about anything if he can use his cast iron cookware) I preheated the oven to 250 degrees and whipped together a base caramel recipe that I could divide up and add flavors to individually.

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In a medium saucepan I melted together:

2 sticks butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

½ cup corn syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

I brought it to a boil and continued boiling for 3 to 5 minutes.

Stirred in ½ teaspoon baking soda.

I removed the pan from the heat and poured a cup to a cup and a half into each of three bowls.

I’d like to note that there was still extra caramel at this point so I poured it onto my Silpat, let it cool, folded it onto itself and later devoured some bonus homemade caramel.  Yes and please.  And thank you.  To me.  Because it was some rocking caramel.

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To each bowl I mixed in the following:

Bowl One: Raspberry Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

2 tablespoons raspberry jam

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Bowl Two: Pumpkin Butter Jerky Caramel Popcorn

2 tablespoons pumpkin butter

⅛ teaspoon butter extract

1 stick jerky, diced

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Bowl Three: Spiced Maple Caramel Popcorn

¼ teaspoon maple extract

½ teaspoon Tibetan spice mix

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Into each of the three bowls I added 2 plus cups popcorn popped by The Husband.

Mixed each bowl well.  Spread out onto parchment lined baking sheets.

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Baked at 250 for one hour, stirring every fifteen minutes.   Sat on the kitchen floor with The Husband listening to the radio and having a date night.  We’re cool people.

Once the hour was up I removed the popcorn and added the rest of the ingredients.  Bowl One, the Raspberry Chocolate Caramel Popcorn received three diced milk chocolate caramels (yes, I ate one so there were only three left) and Bowl Three received three diced maple sugar candies (yes, I ate one of those too so there were only three left).

All together now.

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What’s the verdict.  Ummm, good.  Freaking good.  In fact, I quite amazed myself.

Raspberry Chocolate Caramel Popcorn.  I was a little worried about this one when it was in the oven because it seemed awfully wet, but it stickified (sorry Meredith) up nicely.  There was a hint of raspberry that was unmistakable, yet subtle.  If I were to make this again I would probably add the chopped chocolate caramels in the last 15 minutes of baking to incorporate them better.  This was both mine and The Husband’s second favorite of the bunch.

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Pumpkin Butter Jerky Caramel Popcorn.  This one was also a little wet while baking but also stickified (once again, sorry Meredith) up nicely.  I found the addition of the jerky to be a wee bit much for me, but it was The Husband’s favorite.  He is more of a jerky person than I am so this makes sense.  The pumpkin butter flavor was quite noticeable here as well.  I might add another ⅛ teaspoon butter extract in the future.

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Spiced Maple Caramel Popcorn.  This one was a-freakin-mazing.  Mapley.  Spicey.  Simple yet complex.  The texture was perfect with just the right crunch.  Awesomecaramelsauce.  Oddly enough it was my favorite by far while it was The Husband’s least favorite.  He said he saw how people would like it, but it wasn’t for him.  The Tibetan spice mix had such a sweet yet smoky flavor with cinnamon, cloves and cumin that I found it to be just the right combo of sweet and savory.  I think I’d like to play with the flavors and create a whole batch of this!

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And don’t forget the Bonus Caramel!  It rocked, I already told you that.  No need to brag on myself too much.

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As Meredith might say in her column Everybody Eats, everybody eats.  And we ate some tiny but mighty caramel popcorn, three ways.

Thanks to everyone who follows along here.  Thanks to everyone who eats.  And thanks to Meredith for the lovely box without which this post would not have been possible.  You can check out her blog to see what I sent to her if you’d like.

– Joanna

Question of the Day: Which of these three recipes would be your fav?  Er, four.  Let’s count the caramel, shall we.

11 Comments

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  2. I sampled the caramel corn you gave me and it was mighty tasty! I’m a little bummed I didn’t grab the rest of it for a road trip snack!

  3. straight up caramels for me. For realsies. Although I wouldn’t turn down any of the others if offered. (clears throat) 😉

  4. I would pick the raspberry chocolate one. I love sweet mixed with something more savory like popcorn! Also impressed by your caramels 😀

  5. Caramels. I love, love, love caramel.

    My dentist hates it!

  6. I would love to talk about doing a rogue FPP swap with you!

  7. Oh yum, the spiced maple caramel sounds amazeballs! 😉 It would be my favorite by far!

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