Entertaining a gaggle of ghouls? Time to dress up popcorn (recipes) | VailDaily.com

Entertaining a gaggle of ghouls? Time to dress up popcorn (recipes)

Sara Moulton
Associated Press
With the popcorn popped, you can go either sweet, like these marshmallow popcorn balls, or savory when making popcorn treats.
AP photo | FR170582 AP

It’s that time of year again, when gaggles of little ghosts, goblins and ghouls expect sweet treats.

Whether you are hosting a graveyard’s worth of spooks or need to supply the treats for a classroom party, this year consider ditching candy in favor of an easy treat you can cook up yourself. I’m talking about popcorn. It’s not only tasty, filling and easy to prepare, it’s versatile, too. Make it sweet and it’ll win with the kids. Having an adult party? Make it savory!

Start from scratch by popping the corn kernels on the stove. Those microwave bags of popcorn from the supermarket? You don’t need them. Sure they’re convenient, but most of them also are filled with additives, including hydrogenated fat, artificial colors and flavors and way too much salt.

My recipe for stovetop popcorn cooks up in a jiffy. As in just 5 minutes start to finish. In fact, the whole process is over so quickly that I urge you to stay near the stove until all the corn is popped. I’ve also minimized the danger of burning by specifying a pan that’s just the right size, one that allows you to set out the kernels in a single layer.

With the corn popped, you can then go sweet or savory. For adults, there are Parmesan-garlic and blue cheese-hot sauce options. (Either version also would also score big on Super Bowl Sunday.) For kids, there’s marshmallow popcorn balls (with an optional dash of cinnamon) or double-chocolate popcorn balls. And neither kid option requires any special candy-making skills. You just melt and mix the ingredients with the popcorn and then shape it into balls after it has cooled, a job the kids might want to help with.

HALLOWEEN POPCORN TREATS

(Start to finish: 5 minutes)

For the popcorn:

3 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil

½ cup popcorn kernels

Place the oil in a large saucepan at least 8-inches across at the bottom. Add 3 popcorn kernels, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until the kernels pop. This lets you know when the pan is hot enough.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining kernels and return the pan to the burner. Cook the popcorn over medium-high heat, covered, with a tiny gap to let the steam escape, shaking the pan occasionally until the popping noises slow down to once every 3 to 4 seconds. Remove from the heat.

Makes 11 to 12 cups.

Use the popcorn in one of the following variations:

PARMESAN-GARLIC POPCORN

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 batch popcorn

1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese

Fine salt and ground black pepper

In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the butter and the garlic until the butter is melted. In a large bowl, toss the popcorn with the butter mixture. Add the cheese, toss, then season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Nutrition information per serving: 100 calories; 70 calories from fat (70 percent of total calories); 8 grams fat (3 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 10 milligrams cholesterol; 85 milligrams sodium; 6 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 0 grams sugar; 2 grams protein.

SPICY BLUE CHEESE POPCORN

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

2 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 batch popcorn

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the cheese and hot sauce and stir until the cheese is melted. In a large bowl, toss the popcorn with the cheese mixture.

Nutrition information per serving: 110 calories; 80 calories from fat (73 percent of total calories); 9 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 15 milligrams cholesterol; 85 milligrams sodium; 6 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 0 gram sugar; 2 grams protein.

MARSHMALLOW POPCORN BALLS

1 batch popcorn

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

5 cups mini marshmallows

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, spread out the popcorn in an even layer. In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and salt and cook until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium, add the marshmallows and cinnamon, if using, and cook until melted, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture over the popcorn and quickly mix until all the popcorn is well coated. Let the mixture cool slightly. Oil your hands and form the marshmallow mixture into 12 balls.

Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 80 calories from fat (44 percent of total calories); 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 15 milligrams cholesterol; 60 milligrams sodium; 23 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 12 grams sugar; 1 gram protein.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE POPCORN BALLS

½ cup sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 batch popcorn

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

In a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cocoa and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the popcorn. Stir to coat well. Cool to lukewarm, then stir in the chocolate chips. Oil your hands and form the mixture into 12 balls.

Nutrition information per serving: 220 calories; 120 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 13 grams fat (6 grams saturated; 0 gram trans fats); 10 milligrams cholesterol; 50 milligrams sodium; 30 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 21 grams sugar; 2 grams protein.

Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks.