Popcorn Balls

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I love popcorn balls and starting in October and going through the Holidays they are everywhere. As much as I love popcorn balls, I try to resist them. Why? Because I am always disappointed in store bought popcorn balls’ dry texture and lack of flavor. I want the marshmallowy goodness of the popcorn cakes my mom used to make when I was a kid. To achieve that I was going to have to figure out how to make my own popcorn balls.

It isn’t hard to make popcorn balls but there are a few things to remember.

1. Take time to sort the old maids from your popcorn before you cover them with marshmallow mixture. Your teeth will thank you for it later.

2. The marshmallow mixture is hot enough to burn you so let it cool down for a few minutes before mixing it with the popcorn.

3. To prevent the popcorn/marshmallow mixture from sticking to your hands, rub them all over with a couple tablespoons of butter.

Popcorn Balls

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn
3 TBS butter
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Place a 3 1/2 quart, or larger, saucepan over high heat. Let the empty saucepan sit on the heat for a minute or two. When it is hot, add the oil and three popcorn kernels. When the three kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn. Cover and shake the pan once or twice. Cook, shaking constantly as the popcorn rapidly pops to prevent burning. When the popping slows down to a count of three between pops, remove from stove and pour into a big bowl. Spend some time sorting through the popcorn to remove all the unpopped popcorn kernels.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, over medium heat. Add the marshmallow and stir until the marshmallows melted and combined with the butter. Pour the marshmallow mixture over the popcorn and let it cool for a minute while you butter your hands. Using your hands mix the popcorn into the marshmallows until well coated. Press the popcorn into a one cup dry measuring cup coated with non-stick cooking spray to help form the balls. Remove the popcorn ball from the measuring cup and let cool completely on a sheet of waxed paper. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in an air tight container.

Adapted from my mom’s Popcorn cake recipe

A Solitary Thanksgiving Feast–Cranberry Sauce

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Did you know you can make your own cranberry sauce? Seriously, if you can boil water to make pasta you can have fresh, homemade cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving feast. The basic recipe is only 3 ingredients but can accept almost endless variations.

You could use orange juice for all or part of the liquid. This batch I added a 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice before bringing it to a boil. Orange zest, cinnamon, a little bit of brandy or rum, are all possibilities I have seen on various blogs and websites. Feel free to explore the possibilities and let me know how you made this cranberry recipe your own.

Cranberry Sauce

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup sugar
½ cup water

In a small saucepan add the water and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The sauce is done when the majority of the cranberries pop and the liquid is ruby red and starting to thicken. The sauce will continue to thicken as the sauce cools. 1 cup sauce

Adapted from the back of a package of Ocean Spray cranberries

A Solitary Thanksgiving Feast–Homemade Stuffing

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There are two kinds of people in my family, those who like onions and those who loathe onions. So there are always two kinds of stuffing on our Thanksgiving table, a homemade stuffing with onions and a box of Stove Top stuffing without onions. Since this blog is a reflection of the way I eat and the food traditions I grew up with, there will be both kinds of stuffing posted here.

We will start with the homemade stuffing with onions. I tried several different kinds of stuffing before I settled on this one and in the process discovered a few things. I prefer bread stuffing to grain stuffing. I don’t like tarragon. This is really good stuffing.

This time of year, unseasoned, dried bread cubes are easy to find in any bakery so feel free to grab some. If you want you can make them too. Save all the bits and pieces of bread that you didn’t quite get around to eating. When you have a bunch, cut the bread into cubes and spread onto a sheet pan. Cover the cubes with a clean towel and let sit 24 – 48 hours. When dry, store in a air tight container until you are ready to make your stuffing.

Holiday Stuffing

½ cup diced celery
½ large onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup butter
1 ½ tsp dried sage
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp celery seed
5 cups dried bread cubes
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 oz pork sausage, cooked and crumbled

Lightly saute the celery,onion and garlic in the butter until tender. Stir in the sage, rosemary, thyme and celery seed. Simmer for 5 minutes. Combine the dried bread cubes, cheese and sausage in a bowl. Add the butter herb mixture and about ¾ cup water. Stir until the croutons are lightly moistened. Use to stuff a bird or place in a covered dish and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes

Adapted From The Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook

Cranberry Orange Pancakes

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My two favorite things for breakfast are muffins and pancakes. I have tons of recipes for both and one or the other tends to be on my breakfast menu at least once a week.

Of all my pancake recipes, this is my favorite. I love the tangy pop of the cranberries against the sweet orange. The are so good you don’t even need syrup. If you don’t want to want to chop the cranberries, just throw a handful of whole cranberries in the batter and proceed with the recipe.

Cranberry Orange Pancakes

6 TBS finely chopped fresh cranberries
2 ½ TBS sugar
1 ¼ cup flour
½ cup wheat bran
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
½ cup orange juice
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ tsp canola oil

In a small bowl, combine the flour, wheat bran, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix well. In another bowl, combine the egg, orange juice, milk, and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients mix until just moistened. Fold in the cranberries. Drop by ¼ cupfuls onto a heated pan coated with cooking spray. Cook until the bottom is golden, 2-4 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until the other side is golden.

General Tso’s Chicken

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Mondays are usually my day to post my cranberry recipe of the week. This week, however, I had a special request to post my General Tso’s Chicken recipe. I’ll post my cranberry recipe tomorrow.

General Tso's Chicken

1 chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1” chunks
1 ½ TBS cornstarch
1 egg white
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp oil
¼ cup water
1 ½ tsp cornstarch
1 ½ TBS hoisin sauce
1 TBS soy sauce
1 ½ TBS ketchup
4 TBS brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground ginger
¼ – ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Rinse, pat dry, and trim chicken breasts. Cut breasts into 1” cubes. Heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium high heat in a large non stick skillet. Whisk the egg white, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the chicken. Shake off the excess coating and add to the pan. Stir fry for 12-14 minutes. While the chicken is cooking make the sauce. Mix the cornstarch and water together. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes. When the chicken is done, transfer to a bowl. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the sauce and whisk continuously while sauce is simmer until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken to sauce and mix well. Serve.

Adapted From Allrecipes.com