Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Kettle Corn

Have you ever made homemade kettle corn? It's not much different than making Stove-top Popcorn. You just add sugar in with the salt when you pop it. (The foil lid trick that I learned from watching Alton Brown is genius, so make sure you employ that! I explain it here.)
    Well, I just completed making my Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice, and Little Bit (my youngest) asked me to make popcorn, and Squishy (my second youngest) amended that request to be the "caramel kind." I asked her if she meant kettle corn, (which is a rare treat around here because it requires granulated sugar) and she affirmed my assumption. She wanted kettle corn, and I wanted to use my new spice blend, so I combined the two. The final product was delicious, and I knew I couldn't keep the recipe to myself.  The spices do cause it to be a little darker than normal, but nothing that's off-putting. It just speaks more of fall.

Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Kettle Corn

3 Tbsp organic coconut oil
1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels (mushroom popcorn if you can find it)
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp organic Pumpkin Pie Spice**

Place the oil and a few popcorn kernels in a 6-quart metal mixing bowl, or large pot. Cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil and poke 10 slits in the top with a knife.
Place the bowl (or pot) over medium-high heat and shake constantly using tongs to hold the bowl. (I use oven mits when I use a pot.) Once the kernels pop, carefully remove the foil, and add the remaining kernels, sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice**.
Re-cover the bowl and return to medium high heat. Continue shaking constantly until the popcorn finishes popping, about 3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the heat and carefully remove the foil. Let it cool before eating.
**If you are worried about the spices burning, you can sprinkle the pumpkin pie spice blend on after the kernels are popped, before it cools.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

    I don't like the cold. I love the rain, and the cooler weather (in the Spring and the Fall), but I don't like the cold. The one thing that makes it bearable is to be able to cook and bake to my heart's content, without running the risk of making my house unbearably hot. So, while I'm dreading a northern winter that is going to come sooner than I would like, I'm enjoying the fall right now.
    When the weather starts turning cold, I start craving everything that makes me think of fall. The biggest flavor being Pumpkin Pie Spice. I used to get the pre-made spice blend from Trader Joe's to make my fall goodies (like Pumpkin BarsChocolate Pumpkin PiePumpkin Magic MuffinsPumpkin ButterCheesecake Pumpkin Filled CakeChewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip CookiesCreamy Pumpkin PieNutella Pumpkin Swirl BreadEasy Pumpkin Whoopie PiesPumpkin Cake with Chocolate Ganache, etc.) but sadly, the closest Trader Joe's is now nearly 4 hours away, and I am all out. I don't trust the other blends in the small town store I have to shop from, so I decided to make my own.
     After searching the internet, and my cook books, I decided on this particular blend. It is the exact one that is listed in my Betty Crocker cookbook, and also the one that The Pioneer Woman uses. Those are two of my go-two places for basic recipes, and if it is good enough for them it is good enough for me. (I should note that I found this blend to be a little shy on the nutmeg for my taste, so I add another 1/2 tsp. You should feel free to customize this to your taste. Increase or decrease the amounts of each spice based on what you and your family enjoy. And FYI: I never cook with cloves, but it is something that is included in this blend. I personally think that clove is too strong on it's own for any of my baking needs, so I didn't have any on hand, but Amazon came to the rescue. I order nearly all my organic spices from them, and the 2 day shipping is a life saver! I think the cloves are nicely tamed in this blend, but you can completely omit it, if you are that opposed to it - I know my sister in law is.) ;)
   Immediately following my completion of my new spice blend, I added it to my Postum, my hot cocoa, and my kettle corn. (Yes, I did eat all of that today; and yes, they were delicious.) I wanted to make Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, but I thought I should wait for another day, since my sweets consumption has been more than met today.)
   I hope you enjoy this blend. If you have a blend you like better, let me know! I would love to try it out. And I'm always welcoming new Pumpkin Spice recipes. Keep them coming, all fall long!!

Here's the recipe: (all organic ingredients are encouraged)

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (I add another 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp ground all-spice
1 1/2 tsp ground clove

Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Scotcheroos (And explaining my absence)

     I have been MIA for almost a year now. My life has been turned upside down, and I was having a hard time getting through each day with the normal mommy of 5 duties - forget about blogging. But I think I'm finally in a place where I can pick it back up again.
    So, what happened? My mom died. One day she was here, and the next she's waiting on the other side of the vale with all those who have passed before her. I talked to her on the phone, the night before she passed. No life changing conversation, just the usual ever day chit-chat that we found ourselves in multiple times a day. It was just a couple days after Thanksgiving, and we were talking about how the holiday went and what we were doing with left-overs. She had been sick previously, with her yearly annoyance of bronchitis that she always got that time of year, but she said she was pretty much recovered. Completely on the mend and I had planned on seeing her at church the next day. The next morning, I get a call from my dad at 8am saying that my mom passed away. There was no definitive explanation. It was assumed to be a heart attack. She had passed away that morning while getting ready for the day. My dad came downstairs and saw her slumped on the floor by the couch. He asked if she was o.k., and when she didn't answer he came to her and noticed she wasn't breathing. He started CPR and called 911. The paramedics came. She was still warm. They worked on her, and transported her to the emergency room where they continued to try and resuscitate her for 20 minutes until she was pronounced dead. She had just turned 62.
    There was no warning. No drawn out sickness or disease that could have prepared me for losing my sweet mother and best friend. I thought she would be around to see my kids get married and hold her great grand children. She was so young. I thought we had more time. It was just her time to go, and she went. I miss her every day. And even though I still ball my eyes out when I have to think about her passing (like now), I know that this is not the end. She instilled in me a love of the gospel and a testimony that this earthly life is not all there is. We lived before we came here and we will continue on after we leave. It is but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, but I have a hard time being patient until I can see her and hold her again.

My mom. Senior year.
    So, that was the first life shattering event that happened over this last year. The next is my wildland firefighter husband getting a captain's position out of state. He accepted the job, and within a few short weeks we moved from southern California to Northwest Idaho. Going from one small town to another, but not having the luxury of being close to a large town. We now live in a sleepy mountain town and I frequently drive hours just so my kids can participate in after school sports. There are no friends or family nearby, and I have felt isolated, alone, and completely out of my element. However, I am adjusting. It's been just over 9 months since my mom passed, and 5 months since we moved. There are positives in everything, you just have to look for them. And I'm looking hard!

My old view looked out onto a town of about 1600 people, but just over the hills I could find myself in towns bigger than 200,000 people. Every restaurant and store imaginable, available to me on every whim.
And a warm sandy beach wasn't that far off either.

This is my current view looking out over a town of about 1100 people, and I have to drive 1 1/2 hours to get to the closest "big" towns that are about 30,000 people. And forget about a warm ocean beach.

I do miss the beauty of the desert sometimes.

Especially the sunsets, that I have yet seen to be matched.

But, the mountains do have a beauty all their own. And I consider myself blessed to live here. I just have to keep focusing on the positives, to keep going every day. Views like this make that a much easier task.

So what now?
    I will continue to blog my recipes for you guys (and myself).  As you may have noticed over the last 2 years, most of my cooking lately has been all organic and free of any highly processed sugars/foods (white sugar/white flour, etc.). But, I will be posting some recipes that hold fond memories, like these Scotcheroos, that don't fall into my healthy eating lifestyle, but are a part of me non the less. My grandma used to make these, and my dad now makes these, and my mom even made them from time to time (although she much rather enjoyed eating them than making them). I haven't made these in over a year, but it was the last blog post that I was working on when my snow-globe of a life was given a good shaking, so I thought I would start here.
    The recipe is not healthy, and is full of processed ingredients, but it is a childhood memory for me, and something that makes me think of my family, especially my mom, so here it is. (I have been tinkering with making a healthier version, but I haven't worked out all the kinks yet. I'll share it when I get it just right.)
   Have you had Scotcheroos before? When I was little, I surmised that they were called Scotcheroos because of the butterscotch chips and the O cereal made the "oos." I'm not sure what the reason behind the name is, but if you've never had it before it's yummy. A chewy peanut butter mixture holds together cereal into whatever shape you want, while butterscotch and chocolate chips are the finishing touches on top. You can mix the melted chips together, layer them, or decoratively splatter them all over the top like I did to make the simple cereal treat look extra special. There's not really any way to mess these up. They always taste delicious.

Here's my grandma's recipe:

Chocolate Scotcheroos

1C sugar
1C white corn syrup
1C peanut butter
6 cups o shaped cereal
1 bag chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 bag butterscotch chips (2 cups)

In a saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, and then remove from heat. (The longer you boil it, the harder the treats will be.)
Stir in the peanut butter until smooth, then add the cereal. Press the mixture into a buttered 9x13 pan. Melt the butterscotch and chocolate chips and pour/spread over the cereal mixture. Let set before cutting.