Halloween Treats: Popcorn Balls

“John, do we have any pumpkin left in the freezer?” I called from my secure place on the couch.  Unless it had somehow turned into something that resembled apples, he was pretty sure we didn’t.  “Maybe downstairs?” he suggested.  I decided that was WAY too much effort.  Instead, I just scrolled through all of the recipes searching for a perfect Halloween treat.  We were about to have a group of tweens and early teens descend upon our house for pumpkin carving and bonfire, so I figured it was the perfect time to test out one of 4 popcorn ball recipes.

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My friend’s mom made the pumpkin in the background. It’s handmade paper.

Does anyone even still eat popcorn balls?  I remember getting the ones as a kid, they were rock hard, but at the same time were sort of like Styrofoam.  Maybe making my own would be better.
img_2865Now for the scary stuff before we get into this too far.  Sugar syrup is HOT and STICKY.  This means, if you are not careful, not only could you burn yourself, but it’s hard to remove the heat from your skin quickly.  If you don’t remove the old maids (unpopped kernels) from the popcorn, you may run into some pain.  If you have dental work, the syrup will harden and stick in your dental work.img_2867

The mechanics of this are simple. Pop the corn and have it in a large bowl. Boil the syrup ingredients together until they reach the hard ball stage, 260 degrees. Pour the syrup over the popped corn and mix thoroughly.  Before the syrup becomes hard, but after it’s cool enough to handle, grab handfuls of the popcorn and pack it like you would a snowball.  If you have never packed a snowball, then maybe like a really large meatball.  If you haven’t done that either, then I’ll explain.  First you need to stand on one foot.  Now take that other foot and slowly place it behind your head.  As you are spinning in a circle, put enough popcorn in one hand to fill it.  Then take your other hand and place it on top of the hand with the popcorn in it, covering the popcorn.  Now, as you say the magic words, “Pop, pop, until you stop, stop.  I’ve got to hop, hop” pat your hands together.  Magically a ball will form.  (and if you do this, please post a video in the comments)

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This photo was really just to show off the needle felted acorns I made.
Popcorn Balls (4)

Popcorn Balls

1 cup Karo Syrup (Corn syrup)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 t. vinegar

Boil together until the temperature reaches 260 degrees (hard ball stage).  Add 2 TB butter, Stir until butter has melted, Pour over about 4 quarts of popcorn (about 2 batches in our air popper).  Mix until coated and form into balls.

Found on the Back: Elizabeth “Ma” Duncan

While searching through recipes and content to find perfect Halloween fodder for the blog, I remembered that when I wrote about Edna Ruth Bullock, I had mentioned that I had another “killer” story to share.  (Kind of punny).  So in honor of Halloween and all things horror, let me introduce you to Ma Duncan.  A plain, simple woman that was guilty of maybe loving her son too much.  Elizabeth DuncanWhile women frequently have tenuous relationships with their mothers-in-law, I don’t know of anyone whose mother-in-law has tried to kill them.

 

Read more about Elizabeth Duncan on Wikipedia and in the LA Times.

Fruit Flavored Pound Cake

In which I speak in monotone.

Occasionally there is a recipe that I’ve made that I just have no passion for.  It’s not that it’s not a perfectly fine recipe, it’s more that it is just not my thing.

I let my son pick out the Jell-O and the cake mix for this recipe.  We used lemon cake and lime Jell-O.  Technically there was nothing wrong with this recipe.  It was fine, it made a cake.  I am sure I could’ve done something fabulous with icing or frosting or decoration to make this into more than it was, but I honestly just did not care enough to bother. DSCN2437The cake stuck to the pan and broke.  It didn’t look pretty any more.  I had enough stuff going on that I just didn’t bother to try to make this into something better.  I’m sure that part of this was that I had just gotten laid off from my job and didn’t have any specific prospects lined up.  Had I been my normal self, I would’ve rallied and taken the broken cake and some whipped cream or pudding and turned it into some sort of wonderful trifle like I did with the pistachio cake and fig jam, but I just wasn’t there.

Make this recipe or don’t.  Use whatever combination of Jell-O and cake mix you want.  The number of possible combinations is staggering.  Have better luck with it than I did.

I do think this may have inspired a different idea that I have, but haven’t tried out yet.  Fruit Flavor Pound Cake

 

Pork Chops and Rice

In which I introduce our wildlife.

Sickness has invaded our house.  It came in with a slight wheeze that turned into a cough.  A slight sniffle, a small sneeze.  The weather is going to turn again, maybe for real this time?  We want to be outside absorbing the last little bits of vitamin D, finishing up the yard work that we wanted to get done before it got too cold.  Instead we are just doing small bits of things in between dealing with assorted viruses.  We could all use some comfort food.  DSCN2402

I pulled this recipe out from the archives.  I originally made it in the summer when my tomatoes and peppers were fresh from the garden.  There is nothing quite like summer tomatoes.  The woodchuck that lives under our garage agrees.  Tiko has an entrance to his den in the garden.  We put a fence around the garden hoping to keep rabbits and assorted other animals out, but there is no stopping a woodchuck.  The garden had been a dog kennel.  Apparently even though I can still smell dog in the area, it doesn’t bother Tiko.

 

Tiko also likes apples and will sit up and eat an apple just like a human.

At some point this summer, we realized that Tiko also has a girlfriend.  We named her Tika.  I have these images of Tiko and Tika hanging out and Tika saying things like “I don’t like that wall there.  I want more of an open concept.” and Tiko obligingly digs another hole.  “You know, our living space is just not big enough, we need a bonus room.”  Tiko sighs and gets back to work.  DSCN2600We need to relocate Tiko and Tika before we have a bunch of little Tikis running around our yard digging up holes that I will probably break my ankle in.

 

When you make these pork chops, make sure the pan is covered tightly when you put it in the oven.  The steam from all the juice and liquid will cook the rice.  If for some reason, you are nervous about the rice not cooking all the way, just put it on the bottom of the pan to absorb all the yumminess from the pork and veggies.

 

 

This dish is so basic and easy that you’ll be able to think of a thousand ways to change it up to fit whatever you are craving.  If summer veggies are no longer available, think about using fall fruits with the onion.  In the dead of winter, you can use some mushrooms and greens.  Hate pork?  Use chicken breast.  Have 6 people coming for dinner?  Slice another onion and another tomato.  Serving just you?  You can still make this.  It beats anything from the cookbook “Microwave Cooking For One”.

 

DSCN2409Share this recipe with your kids.  Have them make it.  This is the sort of food that you want them to be able to cook so that you don’t have to worry when they are on their own.

 

Pork Chops and Rice

BLT Salad

In which I attempt to hold onto summer for a minute longer.

I still have a few tomatoes clinging to the vines in my garden.  There are plenty of green tomatoes that I should pick and use to make Green Tomato Mincemeat or Fried Green Tomatoes.  That might come later.  I’m clinging to the skirts of summer, pulling on the hems, begging it not to leave quite yet.  There is so much preparation that has to happen before winter and so little daylight to do it all. DSCN2914Rather than dwelling on the melancholy of passing time, I’m going to grab another ripe tomato and make this salad again.

 

There is a movement going on right now called “Will It Waffle?”.  In his book Daniel Shumski answers this question over and over to delicious ends. DSCN2916

I believe this salad was created with a similar thought in mind, and probably before Mr. Shumski was even thinking about waffles.  Everyone has had BLTs.  There is that pleasure of biting into the crispy toast and having the tomato juice combine with the mayo as it drips down your hands.  Saladizing the classic sandwich gives it a bit of elegance.  You can serve it in a bowl, eat it with a knife and fork.  It instantly becomes fancy food.  It’s not just a salad, it’s a Panzanella.

Take one last bite out of summer.  Find that last red tomato and make this salad.  Fancy it up with a good loaf of Italian or French bread.  Use your favorite bacon.  Get out your fancy dishes and eat this salad.

DSCN2917BLT Salad