|Wow, as it really been 3 weeks since I last posted? Do I really still have Halloween stuff up as the featured content? I’ll get right on that.. Yikes. My apologies! It’s been an insane month. Lemme tell you a bit about it, and punctuate it with a really easy, tasty recipe.
First off, as that last blog entry was posted, I was away in Chicago at a convention. It was WeeM, Chicago Mensa’s Halloween gathering. A great time, on its own… but it’s also the anniversary of my husband and I dating, AND I usually get hired to go and bake a bunch of delicious goodies for the event.
This year was a bit different. Still great on it’s own, but with the added benefit of being able to hang out with a couple of my Chicago based “prison buddies” from my reality show adventure – Duckie & Rim. It was so great to be able to catch up with them – they’re both wonderful people, and it had been a while since I’d seen anyone from that whole experience!
Back on the subject of cooking for WeeM, after a one year hiatus on the baking front, they had me back…with a twist. For the first time ever, they hired me to make SAVORIES! Yes! The whole “just a baker” thing has always been a minor sore point for me, so I welcomed the chance to flex some additional culinary muscle.
I kept the menu fairly simple, aiming to appeal to a wide range of tastes. For the savory part of the spread, I included almost 300 of my famous Mushroom Turnovers, and a couple gallons of Jalapeno Artichoke “Backfire” Dip, both of which went over insanely well.
Just for the event, I made “beet salad” tarts – buttery pastry mini tarts filled with a creamy goat cheese/ricotta mousse, topped with pickled beets, pears, walnuts, and ribbons of fresh basil… they were the first thing to go!
The most “controversial” item on my menu, funny enough… was a gorgeous veggie tray with my Ginger-Wasabi Dip. A couple well meaning individuals raised an eyebrow at the suggestion, telling me that Mensans would NOT touch the veggies. Well, I’m happy to say that my veggie tray was picked clean by the end of the night! Mission accomplished!
It was also the 4th year that I helped organize and judge our “Iron Chef: Hospitality Suite” competition, which is always a great time. It was the first time participating since MasterChef. I promise, I was nice to all our competitors!
As soon as we returned from Chicago, I had two big events to get ready for! On November 1, my latest sewing manual – “Spandex Simplified: Sewing for Superheroes” came out .. and the next day, our friends Michelle and Peter got married!
Because Peter was a complete rockstar for us in the aftermath of the tornado, they were a big exception to my “No more wedding cake, ever!” rule. So, I made them a little topsy turvy cake:
Throughout all of this, I’ve been working on administering and promoting our ongoing Kickstarter campaign, “Beyond Flour: A New Kind of Gluten-Free Cookbook“. It’s been a wild experience! The book reached its first goal about halfway through the campaign, and we’re working on stretch goals now! 402 backers, as I write this… amazing. So grateful for all of the support from those of you who have backed, shared links, etc – thank you!
If all of THAT wasn’t enough, I decided – about a week ago, with less than 1 month until the deadline – that I would be dressing my husband up for the premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I’ve been feeling kinda overlooked / underrated in the local costuming “game”, and decided that I would do a replica of the craziest elf costume in the movie – Thranduil. I KNOW!
The costume is coming along wonderfully, though – the coat has over 166 pieces of fabric in it, alone! – and I can’t wait to show you photos of the finished garment. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the jewelry I made for it:
So… yeah. It’s been a very FULL few weeks. Add a crappy, miserable, STUBBORN cold on top of all that? That’s my excuse for not blogging all this time. Forgive me? I have a recipe!
Caramel corn is great on its own, but I love it even more when it’s loaded with other goodies too – in this case, crisp dried apple slices, the warmth of cinnamon, and nuts!
We used walnut pieces, as that’s what we had on hand.. but this recipe is also great with almonds, pecans, or cashews.
Apple-Cinnamon Caramel Popcorn
20-24 cups popped popcorn (2/3 – 3/4 cup unpopped)
Preheat oven to 200F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Place the popcorn in a large stockpot – how we do it – or divide it between the two cookie sheets. Stir in the apple pieces and nuts, if using. (If using cookie sheets, divide the apples and nuts between the two before stiring well). Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt, whisking until well combined. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat.
Stir in vanilla and cinnamon, whisking until well combined. (You don’t want clumps of cinnamon!). Add baking soda, stir well to combine – caramel will foam up a little.
Pour caramel over popcorn mixture, CAREFULLY stir to coat evenly – Hot sugar is nasty to get burned with! If you mixed it in a pot, divide the caramel corn between the two cookie sheets.
Bake for 1 hour, stirring well every 15 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, I like to switch pan positions in the oven – the one that was on the bottom goes on the top.
Once the hour is up, remove from the oven, break up large chunks of popcorn, and allow to cool. Serve immediately, or transfer to airtight containers for storage.