Almost every year, my kids have gone trick-or-treating for Halloween, someone puts a packaged popcorn ball in their bags.
My family loves popcorn, although us parents hate when kernels spill onto the couch or carpet.
There was always something special about my dad breaking out his old school air popper and then heating some butter and spices over the stove so we’d have a movie-night that was better than anything you’d find at the theaters.
With Halloween approaching, I thought we’d celebrate one of America’s oldest snack foods and the fact that October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month.
Whether it’s prepared on the stovetop, in the microwave or ready to eat from the bag, Americans consume 15 billion quarts of this whole grain each year.
The origins of popcorn can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago. Popcorn kernels are 4 percent water, and the water causes popcorn to pop when heated.
Nebraska produces the most popcorn in America, around 250 million pounds per year.
It is also non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and naturally low in fat and calories, which makes it an easy fit for many dietary preferences.
With so many different ways to eat it — plain, buttery or loaded with goodies like these Halloween-themed or churro popcorn versions — popcorn fits many moods and occasions.
These first two recipes are Halloween related and can be a fun kitchen project with the kids.
Yield: 12 Cups
12 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter or margarine melted
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)
Several drops orange food coloring
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
Assorted decorations for “eyes” and “mouths”
■ Place popcorn in a large bowl. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
■ In a large saucepan, combine confectioner sugar, butter, marshmallows and water. Stir until mixture is melted and blended. Add pumpkin pie spice and food coloring, mixing well.
■ Pour mixture over popcorn, stirring until well coated. Add pumpkin seeds; stir to coat.
■ Shape 1/4 cup of mixture into oval. Add decorations to look like “pumpkin heads”.
WITCHY POPCORN BALLS
Yield: 8 (4-inch) popcorn balls
16 chocolate wafer cookies
3 quarts popped popcorn
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
3 cups miniature marshmallows
3 tablespoons (1/2 of a 3-ounce box)
lime gelatin dessert mix
Green food color, optional
8 chocolate ice cream cones
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Orange sugar sprinkles, placed in a small dish
Jelly beans, candy corn, licorice string
■ Spread a sheet of parchment paper over a work surface. Place the wafer cookies on it.
■ Spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray and place popcorn inside.
■ In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in marshmallows and gelatin dessert powder until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. If desired, adjust color with a drop or two of food color. Pour over popcorn and mix well until coated.
■ Spray hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form into 8 balls. Place balls on eight of the wafer cookies. Press candy decorations into popcorn balls to form eyes, nose and mouth.
■ Place chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover and heat for 10 seconds. Stir chocolate to aid melting. Repeat as needed until chocolate is melted and smooth.
■ Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon melted chocolate onto the top of each popcorn ball. Press a few licorice strings into chocolate to form “hair.”
■ Dip cone edges into melted chocolate and then into orange sugar sprinkles. Place on remaining wafer cookies to form witches’ hats. Place hats onto popcorn balls. Allow chocolate to set for about 45 minutes before serving.
■ Serve or seal individually in plastic wrap for storage.
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
6 cups popped popcorn
■ In a small bowl, mix granulated sugar, powdered sugar and cinnamon.
■ In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar.
■ In a large bowl, toss popcorn with cinnamon butter until well coated. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cinnamon sugar; toss to coat well.
Tips: For spicy variation, add 1 teaspoon spicy chipotle seasoning. Serve with hot chocolate.