While cooking, listen to this: Down by the River by Neil Young
If you haven't had a chance to swing by our About Us Page, you might not know that Rina and I are high school musical dorks. And, no, that's not High School Musical with capital letters (though I do love me some Getcha Head In The Game), rather, high school musical, as in our high school's musical theater department. That's where our friendship first blossomed. It was my freshman year, her sophomore year, and she was the Marty to my Rizzo in Grease.
After Grease, it was a series of low-bar high school productions that resulted in some of my favorite memories. I recently stumbled upon my copies of these shows while searching through a box of old photos. It was a delightful surprise watching Rina and myself in The Wedding Singer. Of course, there were plenty of cringe-worthy moments, but for the most part, I giggled and smiled at how much fun we were having. We both love to perform, and it's too bad that our adult life doesn't allow for those opportunities, at the moment.
I've written about nostalgia before, and how I feel it's such an essential part of the human experience, but with the the holidays right around the corner, there's lots of quality family time head. One of my favorite family-time activities is watching home videos - whether they're cringe-worthy high school performances, or hilarious 90's inspired get-ups, there's something special about re-experiencing the past. If anything, it helps you appreciate the kind of person you've become today and the friendships you've developed (hi, Rina!)
Now, on to this popcorn. You may have seen our fried food bonanza the past few weeks and wondered what was practical about sacrificing your entire apartment to the fried food gods. And while I highly encourage dedicating a day or two to cranking out your favorite Hanukkah treats, I'm more inclined to tell you about a holiday goodie that's super easy to make and even easier to gift.
I never know how to deal with holiday gifts. I didn't grow up really giving them, and kind of occasionally received them. At work, things get confusing when people are giving their bosses gift cards and recieving treats from colleagues and friends. So, instead of stressing over which useless mug I should buy my boss, I'll whip up a batch of this maple-pecan popcorn which all but screams winter cheer, and is, honestly, one of the most fool proof treats you can concoct.
What's even better - you can make this popcorn your own. I encourage swapping pecans for peanuts or cashews, drizzling with dark chocolate or topping with festive sprinkles. Whatever you choose to do, this popcorn is the perfect accompaniment to a marathon home video session with the family.
MAPLE PECAN POPCORN
Yield: about 10 cups
Active Cook Time: 35m | Total Cook Time: 1h (includes cooling)
Category: Snacks, Sweet, Gluten-Free, Celebrate
Special Equipment: candy thermometer (optional)
8 cups plain popcorn
1 cup pecans
6 Tablespoons (¾ stick) butter
1 ½ cups maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
Roast the pecans: preheat the oven to 350F and place the pecans on a dry, clean baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, until the house smells like a dream and the pecans have turned a gorgeous ebony color. Cool for a few minutes, then roughly chop.
Prepare pans and popcorn: line a large baking sheet (or two smaller baking sheets, like we did, if you don't have one that's large enough) with foil, and then lightly oil with some cooking spray. Add the popcorn and pecans to a large bowl and toss.
Make maple syrup coating: in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once fully melted, pour in the maple syrup and salt and bring to a boil. Boil over medium heat, without stirring, for about 10 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, it should read 300F. If you do not, the coating is ready when it is a deep brown color, has reduced slightly and thickened.
Assemble! Once the coating is ready, immediately pour it into the popcorn-pecan bowl and stir briskly with a silicone spatula or lightly-oiled spoon to coat. It starts to harden quickly, so work fast! Immediately spread the popcorn onto the baking sheet(s) into an even layer. Cool completely, then break into small pieces.
To keep: this popcorn will keep well in a tightly-sealed container or zippered plastic bag for up to 1 week.